For the third year in a row, I am going to provide my list of the 5 best free plugins for WordPress. Some are returning choices, and some are here for the first time!
All of the 5 plugins provide a free option that is excellent and also have a paid version for more features. I’ve made sure all of the chosen plugins can be useful to you even with the free plugin. I don’t believe you need to throw hundreds of pounds at a website and often you can achieve a lot with very little outlay.
So, let’s start our look at the best free WordPress plugins for 2021.
1. WP Reset
WP Reset is a plugin I’ve started using this past year. It’s one of those plugins I now could not imagine life without! At its core, WP Reset is a plugin to help you delete and reset WordPress. That might not sound too useful, but its free version provides some much-needed features. The pro version is just exceptional.
With the free plugin, you can reset WordPress to a new installation or delete certain bloat. One of the main problems with owning a WordPress website is after a few years it is full of old content, unnecessary pages and a bloated database. It’s quite hard for the average WordPress user to keep on top of their database and media files. With WP Reset you can cleanse your website fairly easily.
Not everyone needs to do a nuclear reset and delete everything, sometimes you just need to do a partial reset. With WP Reset’s partial reset tools you can delete all uploads, database transients, or reset your theme (if you’ve made changes to the theme’s options).
One other really useful tool for the average user is the option to delete the htaccess file. When I first started I had an issue with an htaccess file on my first WordPress website. It took me hours to get help and be shown how to delete the file and reset it. With WP Reset you can do that in seconds!
A final great feature of the free version of WP Reset is the database snapshot option. You can periodically take a snapshot and back up your WP database. If ever a plugin update or a hack damages your database you can roll it back to the last snapshot. So useful if anything goes wrong.
While the free version is excellent and provides a wealth of great options for any user, the pro version is magical! With the paid version of the plugin, you can have your own time machine.
WP Reset pro saves a snapshot of your entire website before you run any plugin, theme or core update. So, if an update ruins your website you can roll your website back with one click to the version before the update.
At least one a year I have a serious problem where an update destroys a website. Now I no longer need to worry, as I can just roll it back easily.
There are loads of other great features you can get with the pro version, but I don’t want to focus too much on the paid version.
You can’t run a website without thinking about SEO. Love it or hate it, search engine optimisation (SEO) controls the Internet. Businesses need to rank well on Google to be found and bad SEO rankings can ruin any business.
Knowing you need to care about SEO is one thing, knowing how to care is a much more challenging thing. There are many SEO plugins available for WordPress, which is the best?
Yoast is the most popular SEO plugin and for anyone with a bit of knowledge would be the one they’ve heard of. However, there are a handful of newer SEO plugins now accelerating past Yoast with many more and more useful features for free!
SEOPress is my pick as the best SEO plugin for WordPress.
SEOPress helps you build great meta descriptions of each of your web pages and posts. They help guide you to use the best keywords and link to Google Analytics, Tag Manager and Google Ads. They also help you ensure your links look amazing on social media — the other crucial way you’ll get your website found online.
Since I started using SEOPress I must admit my SEO knowledge has greatly improved. While their plugin helps you take the hassle out of SEO, it does also help educate you and make you aware of the key things you need to do to improve your SEO ranking.
You can compare it against Yoast and see how much more feature-rich SEOPress is.
Whilst the free plugin provides everything you need and more, the paid, pro version has many more amazing features. With the pro version, you can get suggestions from Google, use their bot to check for broken links and heal the broken links with their redirection tool. It’s one of those plugins that’s constantly being improved and in a matter of months will be even more powerful.
When you’re owning or managing a website, speed matters. No one will want to wait for a slow website and it won’t rank well in Google if it takes too long to load.
When I’ve helped people speed up their website the number one cause is always that their image files are too big. A webpage should be less than 1MB in total size if it’s going to load quickly. I’ve come across image files on websites that are 40MB or larger before!
How do you keep the file size down with images? Compression and resizing. That’s exactly what to do and is exactly what Shortpixel provides for free.
With the free Shortpixel plugin you can install it and ignore it. It will automatically compress any image file or PDF you upload to your website. It will shrink the file size without losing quality. It will also generate WebP files (very important) and can optimise thumbnails as well as larger images.
There’s not just one free Shortpixel plugin, there’s five! With their Adaptive Image plugin, you can ensure your images are properly sized for the users’ device. The Resize Image After Upload plugin can help you resize a larger photo or image from 4000px to only 1000px without needing to pay for Photoshop.
While all of this is free and anyone can install these plugins, with a business website you may need to pay for credits. With the free plugins, you can do 100 image compressions per month. You might only upload a few each month, then the paid version is not necessary. However, if you routinely add images to your website, a paid plan will help.
Having a great website that loads quickly and ranks well is an achievement. But you don’t want someone to ruin it.
Every WordPress website needs to be protected. People building their own website often forget or don’t realise, but a WordPress security plugin is a must for every website. Every website we manage faces at least one hacking attempt every day. Without a security plugin, that website would be easily compromised.
Much like the SEO plugins, there are loads of great options for WordPress security. After testing all of them, my personal favourite is Wordfence.
Wordfence comes with an amazing array of security features that you can turn on and leave on autopilot. Wordfence will routinely scan your website for malware. It will look for any changes to plugins, themes or your WP core. It will even scan outside of WordPress to look for issues within your hosting files.
Their login security options are great. They provide a two-factor authentication (2FA) option to add an extra layer of security. It does slow me down getting into my websites, but I prefer the hassle of using a 2FA app over the hassle of a hacked website!
You can also block certain login phrases. So, if some teenage hacker tries to use ‘user’ as a username to get into your website, their immaturity is immediately punished with a ban. You can also check for any IP address trying to hack your website and permanently ban their IP address.
As with all of these plugins in the list, there is a premium, paid version. However, I have never used it or seen the need for it!
Building websites with WordPress isn’t easy. Finding out which theme to use can seem daunting. Once you’ve got a theme how do you edit it and make it into your own website?
Luckily, Elementor provides the answers to all of these worries! Elementor is a free drag-and-drop website builder for WordPress. You can use it with any theme and you can very easily edit all of the website content and build your perfect website.
As an Elementor agency, I love to use Elementor not just because of how easy it is for me to build websites, but how easy it is for my clients to manage their website.
The free version of the plugin comes with loads of great widgets and hundreds of pre-built pages or sections for you to add to your website. You really can build a great website very easily with minimal design knowledge with Elementor.
One of the main advantages of Elementor is the sheer number of addon plugins. Loads of developers have created additional widgets and templates to help expand what you can do with Elementor for free.
While you can achieve so much with the free version, the paid version makes a big difference. You can build headers, footers, and use dynamic content to produce an even more powerful website.
When it comes to building a website with WordPress, you really have no choice but to build it with the best website builder, Elementor!
Working with WordPress is great. You have access to thousands of free plugins to expand and improve your website.
I’ve provided a list of my 5 favourites. Ones I use each and every time I create a WordPress website.
If you need help getting started with a WordPress website, feel free to get in touch today.