Top 10 Must Have Free WordPress Plugins

I get asked on occasion what are the WordPress plugins that I use, and why? I’ve decided to lift back the curtain and reveal the top 10 essential plugins that every WordPress site should have installed and enabled. You may use as many plugins on your site as you’d like, the following should be at the core of your list.

1. WP Security Scan – As soon as you’ve completed the design process, security should be the very first thing on your mind. Hackers use port scanners and other malicious bots to auto-discover, then hack WordPress blogs. This plugin hides your WordPress version information, forcing those bots to go somewhere else. WP Security Scan also provides an easy to use utility that renames your WordPress database. If a hacker does get in, he’ll need to know your WordPress database name. By default, all WP databases are named “wp_”. This plugin allows you to change your database name to whatever you’d like. It also checks directory security and allows you to sign up for free monitoring. This is a must have!

2.  Limit Login Attempts – Keeping your WordPress blog secure is a little bit easier when you have this plugin installed. WordPress by default does not force a captcha or restrict those who’ve entered an incorrect password more than 3 times. This plugin allows you to set how long someone must wait after they’ve entered their password incorrectly too many times. WordPress by default allows a person and/or bot to continually retry different user/pass combinations until they’re in. Once you have this plugin installed, enable the email feature. Within the first week of using this plugin you’ll see why it’s so important!

3. TimThumb Vulnerability Scanner – About a year ago, there were thousands and thousands of WordPress blogs hacked. The hacked sites were all redirected to pages that contained harmful viruses. Not only were these sites hacked, they would also run the risk of being de-indexed by Google if not fixed in a timely manner. In the end, WordPress discovered a “back door” vulnerability in a file called timthumb which helps to automatically resize images for pages and posts. This TimThumb Vulnerability Scanner plugin scans your WordPress site for all timthumb files and gives you the option to automatically update them.

4. Akismet – If you allow comments on your blog posts or pages, this plugin is an absolute must have! I’ve spent countless hours of research trying to determine what’s the very best anti comment spam plugin on the market. This is it. If you’ve visited the Akismet website and tried to sign up for an API key, it appears to be a paid service but its not. When signing up, move the slider over to free and voila!

5. 404 Redirection – As you make changes to your website, your sitemap reflects those changes. When Google, Bing and Yahoo return to your site, they may or may not always re-index all of your sitemaps. The last thing you want is for someone to click on a link in the search results and arrive at a 404 page. Most people assume there is something wrong with your website when they see a 404 “page not found”. It’s so easy to hit the back button, and then go to the next site in the search results. This plugin forces visitors to your homepage when they enter or arrive at a page that does not exist. This also helps with SEO by redirecting old and/or incorrect links directly to your homepage. Great for retaining link juice!

6. Crawl Rate Tracker – It’s a little bit cumbersome and confusing to use Bing and/or Google Webmaster Tools to find out how often the search engines visit your site. This plugin gives you an easy to read, 30 day chart that shows exactly what was crawled, and by who.

7. WordPress Backup to Dropbox – If tragedy strikes your website, it’s always good to have backups. You may be thinking that your web host provides daily backups so there is really nothing to worry about. That it true, but did you know that there is a charge for backup restoration? Most web hosts charge anywhere from $10 to $25 each time you need something restored. Signup for a free Dropbox account and you’ll receive 2GB of free storage. Install this plugin and set it up to automatically backup based on your needs. Use this as a backup to your backup!!

8. MailChimp – If you’ve noticed on this site, and a lot of other sites like ours. Getting visitors to sign up for the newsletter is huge! It helps to build loyal readership and over time builds trust with your subscribers. As I found in the beginning, enabling a subscribe-to newsletter script wasn’t all that easy. In addition, most companies charge you a monthly fee to use their newsletter signup services. MailChimp is a paid service, but they have a completely free plan that allows you to acquire up to 2,000 subscribers. When you reach more than 2,000 you’ll need to start paying. The MailChimp plugin integrates with your MailChimp account for easy setup and administration. Some webmasters call there subscriber list the ATM machine. Each time they send out a newsletter with affiliate links, they get money in return!

9. W3 Total Cache – If configured correctly, this plugin reduces your websites overall file size by 10 to 25% making your site load faster for visitors and the search engines. If you weren’t aware, Google tests your sites load time and that becomes one the factors in its algorithm. If your competitor has a similar site that isn’t optimized, they will appear below your optimized site in the search results. This plug essentially zips up your website. This method is similar to a zip file. As you know, when you zip something up, it reduces the total file size. Some of the biggest WordPress blogs on the net swear by this plugin.

10 – WordPress SEO by Yoast – I’ve saved the best for last. If you only download one of the plugins listed here, this should be the one. As the title mentions, it is designed to help with search engine optimization. When creating new content, its helps you to focus on a keyword or key phrase, then helps you optimize the site title, Meta description and Meta keywords (optional). It also helps with social media, site descriptions, breadcrumbs, XML files, RSS feeds and more. After you’ve installed the plugin, you will see a new SEO section when creating posts or pages. Get to know this plugin well and you’ll dominate your niche and/or local service industry!

I’d like to hear from you guys. What plugins do you think are essential to your WordPress site? Do you agree with the list I have? What are your thoughts and opinions? Please share below.

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About the Author ()

John Bousman is an MCSA, MCTS, MCP, Net+ and A+ Certified Technician. He is also an avid Web Developer, WordPress Jedi, SEO Connoisseur and owner of an IT Firm in the Midwest. During the day he helps tackles Server Administration and Desktop Support issues for small business. With over 15 years experience installing, configuring and troubleshooting retail and enterprise software, he's seen it all. Make sure you checkout his profile on Google+.

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  1. JC says:

    Here’s a couple more.

    Better WP Security
    – Good all-in-one security solution. You NEED something.

    Google XML Sitemap for Videos
    – Increase your click through rate with a video thumbnail in the search results.

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