Launch Your Next Website for Free with These Plugins

WordPress is an open source website creation tool that is arguably the easiest and most powerful blogging and content management system available today. WordPress is currently used by news outlets, famous bloggers, celebrities and Fortune 500 companies, including The New York Times, Mashable, TechCrunch and CNN on-air personality blogs. WordPress is 100% free of charge, easily customizable, simple to get started, and offers one of the largest support communities in the world. Nearly 75 million WordPress based sites exist already and WordPress sites account for nearly 20% of all self-hosted sites.

When designing a WordPress site, key pieces that can be added to optimize and enhance functionality are plugins. WordPress plugins are written in PHP code and are designed to integrate seamlessly with WordPress sites. WordPress users can download and use plugins to add functionality that allows for social media sharing, increased traffic, analytics, e-commerce, enhanced security, search engine optimization, performance optimization, contact forms, galleries, easy backups, link checking and more.

Your specific needs will dictate which plugins will be useful. Let’s take a look at 10 free plugins that can add value to your WordPress site, giving you a successful launch. WordPress has more than 45,000 plugins available, and most are free of charge. A quick search of available plugins shows that there’s a plugin for just about anything you may want to add to a website. The 10 featured here are great for getting started with a new website on the WordPress platform, or adding functionality to an existing site. However, you owe it to yourself to take some time to explore the thousands of options available to site builders.

Ecommerce WD

Ecommerce WD is a shop front plugin that can quickly turn your standard WordPress blog into a cash cow. A free version is available which includes most of the core functionality, and more themes and product view options are also available for when your web store takes off.

With its responsive layout, this plugin ensures your store will look great on any size of screen, including on smartphones. You can add unlimited products in unlimited categories, and there’s advanced support for different shipping methods. Social sharing is built in, so visitors can the word out about your products, and customers can easily compare your products side by side.

With an easy to use interface, time-based reporting and integration with PayPal Payments and PayPal Express, this ecommerce plugin makes building a store with WordPress child’s play.

Google Analytics by MonsterInsights

Track your blog and stay up to date with the newest features in Google Analytics. This free plugin has been downloaded nearly 11 million times, and it includes an option for a premium version with even greater support and customization.

Install this plugin and allow it to integrate with Google Analytics API. It uses the universal Google Analytics tracking code, the fastest and most reliable code offered by Google Analytics. You’ll be able to view visitor metric dashboards within your WordPress install, enable demographics and interest reports, track outbound links and downloads, ignore certain user levels, anonymize IPs, track search result and 404 pages, and perform debugging. Understanding Google Analytics is key to search engine optimization, and Google Analytics by MonsterInsights makes that task much easier.

WordFence Security

Designed to enhance security, WordFence Security helps protect your site from hacks and malware. With over 1 million downloads, WordFence is a free and open source plugin is a trusted by WordPress users worldwide.

WordFence Security’s Threat Defense Feed is constantly updated, and a Web Application Firewall prevents hacks. WordFence Scan alerts you quickly to any compromising activity, and a live traffic view shows you any hack attempts. A premium API key is available that offers additional support, such as country blocking, password auditing and checking on whether your IP address is being used for spam advertising.

Visitors to websites demand a high level of security when visiting, and more critically, sharing any information. WordFence Security allows for two-factor authentication used by banks, government agencies and the military for the highest possible security. WordFence enforces strong passwords, and creates a firewall that blocks fake Googlebots, hackers and botnets, allowing you to protect yourself and your customers.

WordPress Form Builder

As a way of building the customer relationship, many websites reach out to visitors in a quest to obtain their contact information, allowing the site to send notifications, special offers, newsletters and more – all designed to keep you at the forefront of the customer’s attention.

WP Form Builder, one of the leading contact form plugins available, helps you manage multiple contact forms, customize the form and mail contents easily with simple markup. CAPTCHAs, file uploads and PayPal integration are all supported. The plugin is free for up to seven fields per form.

WordPress Photo Gallery

WordPress Photo Gallery is suitable for general use, while being powerful enough for professional photographers, visual artists and imaging pros.

There are nine view options in total. You also have four widgets with options that allow you to control size, style, transitions, timing, lightbox effects, controls and a host of other features.

PageBuilder

The number one page creation plugin for WordPress, PageBuilder makes it easy as one-two-three to create responsive column based content with familiar widgets, and content easily adapts to display accurately on mobile devices.

The intuitive interface is familiar to WordPress users, looking just like WordPress itself. It works with commonly used widgets that are easy to find. It works with any theme, and you can change themes as often as you like.

PageBuilder has a drag and drop interface that does not require the user to do any coding, nor is the user limited by pre-defined row layouts. You can assign the number of columns per row and the weight of each column. An easy editing tool allows you to edit in real-time, and a history browser tool allows you cycle forward and back through your changes so you can experiment with different layouts. You can change paddings, background colors and column spacing, and enter custom CSS and CSS classes for finer grained control.

Ultimately Social

Social media is a big part of many websites, and Ultimately Social allows you to add icons for RSS, email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and a host of other social media sites.

This plugin allows you to choose from 16 different designs for social media icons, link multiple actions to one social media icon, animate icons, and make icons float or sticky.

Visitors to your site will be able to subscribe to your blog via email, and you can display sharing buttons and icons at the end of every post. You can add counts to the icons to indicate how many times a post has been liked or shared.

WP Google Maps

The WP Google Maps plugin plugin allows you to add customized Google maps to your posts quickly and easily. It’s great for maps showing locations, routes, deliveries or whatever you need it to show.

There is a free version and a premium version of this plugin available. The free version allows you to create a map with unlimited markers, easily edit map markers, offers nine themes, street view support, widget functionality, localization support, choice of map types, and no advertising or links are included with your map.

The premium version allows for more detailed marking, including locations, descriptions, images, directions and more. You can create multiple maps, use different marker icons, allow visitors to map their location when getting directions, show visitor locations, and Retina support is available.

BuddyPress

BuddyPress is a great plugin for building community based websites that include member profiles, activity streams, user groups and messaging.

This suite of components are common in social networking, and is modern, robust and sophisticated. It’s easy to use, powerful and simple.

Registered members at your site will be able to create profiles, engage in private conversation, establish connections, and create and interact with groups. BuddyPress serves as a great tool for building a home base for a niche community, sports team or organization.

Yoast SEO

Improving upon WordPress’s already dynamic SEO, the Yoast SEO plugin tends to the technical optimization while helping you produce better content. With Yoast SEO, you’ll choose a keyword for your blog and use that focus keyword everywhere. Yoast SEO will let your know when titles are too long or short, and whether your metadata makes sense in the context of a search result, increasing your rankings and organic clickthroughs.

Yoast SEO will analyze a page to check for images and whether they have an alt tag with the focus keyword. It will check length, meta descriptions, and check for the presence of subheadings. It allows you to optimize pages with categories, tags and custom taxonomy archives.

You’ll have the most advanced XML Sitemaps functionality available on WordPress with Yoast SEO. It creates XML sitemaps and notifies Google and Bing of their existence, along with images of your posts and pages, increasing the odds of your images being found in a search. A link will be added to your RSS feed pointing back to the original article, letting the search engine know the true location of the original, minimizing the ability of scrapers to steal your traffic.

ocial media support is provided, and the plugin is fully multi-site compatible. You’ll also have import and export functionality that allows you to move your Yoast SEO settings easily to other sites.

Web developer Richard Sutherland has been working with WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other content management systems for over a decade. Graduating from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Richard has held a number of prominent website development roles at major companies such as Samsung, ASDA and Prudential.

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