One of the things that makes WordPress so darn popular is its flexibility and versatility. If you can dream it, you can build it with WordPress. Or, more accurately, you can build it with WordPress plugins. Below, we’ll discuss plugins and share the best free WordPress plugins we found for your website.
What are WordPress Plugins?
You can actually think of a plugin like an app for your website. They are just little pieces of software designed to perform a specific task or add a specific feature to your self-hosted WordPress site. There are too many types of plugins to count. You’ll find a full WordPress plugins list (of all 57,000 of them!) in the WordPress Plugin Directory.
Nearly any function you can dream of will be available via WordPress plugins. Free and paid options are available for everything from security, to SEO optimization, to adding social media sharing buttons to your site.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin
Before you try to install any of the cool WordPress plugins below, you’ll need to confirm that you’re using WordPress.org, or you have a paid business account with WordPress.com. Once you have that covered, installing a plugin in WordPress is pretty darn easy. Simply head to the plugin directory from your WordPress dashboard, search or browse until you find the plugin you want, and download. You’ll work through the installation process selecting “Install Now” and “Activate” when prompted. Boom! The plugin is now available to use on your website.
The Best Free WordPress Plugins
You get what you pay for…usually. Of course, there are plenty of amazing plugins available to purchase through the WordPress Plugin Directory. But! Some of the best WordPress plugins in 2021 are available at no cost. Most will have Premium or Pro versions available or purchase, but in many cases, the free versions of must-have WordPress plugins are all you’ll need. Here are 17 of the best free WordPress plugins for your website.
1. SEO: Yoast SEO
One of the best SEO plugins for WordPress, and perhaps one of the most robust free plugins on the market, is Yoast SEO for WordPress. Even for those who have a good grasp of SEO basics, Yoast offers several valuable functions. The plugin will analyze your copy for keyword optimization and readability, as well as provide suggestions for improvements. Yoast SEO Premium boasts optimization for multiple keywords and automates several of the manual functions offered in the free version.
2. Contact Forms: WPForms
WPForms is a 100% responsive drag-and-drop form builder. WPForms Lite allows you to build upon one of many pre-made templates for free. WPForms Pro (paid version) lets you take it up a notch and create payment forms, surveys, newsletter sign-ups, and more.
3. Improve Speed: WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache generates static HTML files from dynamic WordPress blogs to improve the speed at which users are served. This plugin has received fantastic reviews, boasts a simplified user interface, and comes with lovely price tag: $0!
4. Analytics and Insights: MonsterInsights
MonsterInsights is a paid Analytics plugin, but they also have a free version called Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights. The goal of this top wordpress plugin is to make the information provided by Google Analytics easier to understand. It comes with customized, actionable reports so you can see what is working and what is not.
5. Security: WordFence
Wordfence Security Firewall and Malware Scan uses the newest firewall rules, malware signatures, and known malicious IP addresses to block potentially dangerous website traffic. It can also repair files by overwriting them with clean code and delete files that don’t belong. WordFence Premium, which starts at $99/year, provides many additional features including real-time updates on potential threats.
6. Authentication: Google Authenticator
Google Authenticator, gives you a variety of two-factor authentication methods to ensure unauthorized users cannot gain access to your website. The plugin integrates with WooCommerce, BuddyPress, Memberpress Pro, Digimember, and more.
7. Antispam: Akismet
This is one of the best free plugins in 2021! By adding Akismet to your site, you avoid the barrage of spam comments that is all too common online today, saving you time and storage space. The plugin is free for individuals and starts at just $10/month for commercial use.
8. Page Builder: Elementor
It’s the perfect WordPress website builder to help you create high-end designs with boku capabilities. Elementor includes a drag and drop editor and full open-source approach. This top plugin is great for those who know what they want their website to look like but lack the web development capabilities to build it themselves. Elementor is free for basic websites on WordPress. Premium plugins and WordPress addons start at just $49/year for professional sites.
9. Social Sharing: Social Warfare
With over 1M downloads, Social Warfare is one of the best WordPress plugins for blogs. It adds fast social share buttons to your website. This plugin helps you control the way in which your content is shared, so that you can optimally leverage your current traffic while continuing to grow your reach. The free version includes share buttons for all of the top social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. By purchasing a pro license, you can also add buttons for Reddit, WhatsApp, Yummly, and more.
10. Photo Gallery: Envira
This drag and drop photo gallery plugin is easy to use and integrates with many of the website plugins already mentioned above. Envira Photo Gallery is free, mobile ready, and SEO friendly. Its straightforward approach makes it simple for everyday users while also allowing web developers to make customizations, if desired. Additional features can be found in the pro version, which starts at $34/month.
11. Photo Slider: Smart Slider 3
If you want to create slider galleries, Smart Slider 3 is a must have plugin. Also, fully responsive and optimized for SEO, Smart Slider 3 gives you loads of ways to get creative with your photo gallery. Every heading, text, image, and button can be easily edited with the intuitive user interface. Additional pro features are available for as little as $35/year.
12. Photo Compression: Smush
When you’re looking to optimize load times and storage usage, compressing images on your website can be very helpful. We count Smush among the best free website plugins because of its robust capabilities, which include lossless compression, off-screen image deferment, bulk compression, incorrect image detection, and so much more.
13. Learning Site Builder: Lifter LMS
LifterLMS lets you create and sell an unlimited number of free online courses without a maximum student capacity. As your learning site grows, you can purchase add-ons for anything from e-commerce, to email marketing, to private areas for 1:1 coaching.
14. Directories: Business Directory Plugin
You can create any type of directory imaginable with Business Directory Plugin. You’ll be able to offer both free and paid listings to any person or business. Membership, medical, business, and book review listings are just a few of the directories you can create for free. Add-on packages are available for purchase and start at $99/year.
15. Fundraising: Give
GiveWP is a powerful platform designed for accepting online donations. This free WordPress plugin is a perfect complement to any crowdfunding campaign, as it allows you to accept charitable gifts via customizable donation forms on your website. It also provides reporting options and integrates with quite a few third-party services. Add-ons such as the ability to accept recurring donations, payment gateways, and marketing tools can all be purchased individually or in packages.
16. Ecommerce: WooCommerce
If you’re looking to build an e-commerce site on a WordPress platform, WooCommerce is your go-to. It’s by far the most popular open-source solution, and one of the best plugins in 2021 because it’s free and completely customizable. The variety of themes available, the ability to create custom pages in minutes, and a number of built-in tools and integrations definitely set WooCommerce apart from its main competitor, Shopify. And as a bonus, you can use their mobile app to manage your store on the go.
17. Mailing List: MailChimp
When you need to collect users’ contact information and create a mailing list, you will definitely benefit from the MailChimp plugin. It allows you to add a sign-up form to any post or page on your site. This one is completely free, and of course integrates with your MailChimp account.
Plug Into Hungry Media and Launch a Killer Website
Regardless of whether you’re brand new to website creation or a seasoned web designer, everyone can use a little help from time to time. Hungry Media has a wealth of knowledge and years of experience building WordPress sites. Whether you want to learn how to use one (or more!) of the best free WordPress plugins around, or you’re looking to build a brand-new site or app from scratch, Hungry Media can help. Just like WordPress, if you can dream it, Hungry Media can build it. Contact us today for more details!
contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer