Our Top 5 (Mostly) Free WordPress Plugins
Yona GidalevitzFebruary 18th, 20165 minute read
Yona is Codal’s Technical Writer. At Codal, he is responsible for content strategy, documentation, blogging, and editing. He works closely with Codal’s UX, development, marketing, and administrative teams to produce all manner of written content. In his free time, Yona is an avid guitarist, cook, and traveler.
WordPress is a powerful, user friendly platform for building and maintaining custom websites. Its power, however, lies not in the benefits of its native functionality, but in the endless possibilities offered through its secret weapon: plugins.
If you have some experience building websites, but you're new to WordPress—or even if you are just new to plugins—you're in for a real treat. With over 43,000 options to choose from, WP plugins are the bread and butter of WordPress customization.
We talked to our WordPress developers here at Codal, and compiled a list of (mostly) free plugins so that you can get your website where you want it to be—or at least most of the way there. So, without further adieu, here are Codal's favorite plugins for your reading pleasure.
1. Jetpack by WordPress.com
WP plugins come in all shapes and sizes. Most of them add or modify components that bring added functionality to either the front end or the back end. WordPress's own, rather deftly named, Jetpack by WordPress.com belongs to the latter group.
We'll just call it "Jetpack" for our readers' sake.
"Jetpack simplifies managing WordPress sites by giving you visitor stats, security services, speeding up images, and helping you get more traffic. Jetpack is a free plugin."
Jetpack integrates its very own dashboard into the backend of WordPress, giving users an abundance of added features. There's a reason that we gave this extremely useful plugin the number one spot in our list.
- Traffic growth and visitor statistics
- Image optimization
- A management dashboard
- Lots of support
2. WP Fastest Cache
Based on the top two spots on this list, you may begin to assume that all WP plugins have clever and well thought-out names, right? Hey, it works, doesn't it? WP Fastest Cache does exactly what it sounds like it does.
A quick trip to their entry on WordPress's plugins page will reveal that its primary function is to create static HTML files out of your dynamic WordPress site, and minfiies both HTML and CSS, speeding up your site's performance, and reducing the time it takes to render your page.
This technique leverages browser caching, in addition to Gzip compression, to make sure that your WP blog is the fastest around.
WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress (yes, you guessed right) that allows you to sell virtually anything, and look good doing it.
"With WooCommerce, you can sell both physical and digital goods in all shapes and sizes, offer product variations, multiple configurations, and instant downloads to shoppers, and even sell affiliate goods from online marketplaces."
Not surprisingly, WooCommerce powers roughly 30% of all online stores. That's more than any other platform. One of it's many features that our clients find particularly useful is that it accepts not only all major credit cards, but also PayPal, direct bank transfers (BACS), Stripe, Amazon Payments, and even cash.
4. Yoast SEOYoast SEO (another brilliant plugin name) is two parts search engine optimization (SEO) platform, and one part content improvement tool. How can this be, you ask? It's quite simple, actually. On top of it's already robust set of SEO optimization protocols, Yoast forces users to choose a focus keyword, and actively annoys them into using it everywhere.
Some of its most popular optimization include:
- An in-depth page analysis that checks for image alt-tags, post length, meta data, subheadings, and more.
- WordPress-specific SEO optimization that tweaks the settings, and sets permalink reminders.
- Meta link elements
- XML sitemaps
- RSS optimization
- And more...
5. Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress
If the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP sounds familiar to you, it's because you've probably heard of Google Analytics. It's the most widespread website analytics tool around, and for a good reason: it's extremely easy to use, and powerful enough to get the job done in most situations.
If you aren't familiar, head on over to the Google Analytics homepage and read up on what it does and why you need it.
If you're wondering why you should use this plugin as opposed to the dedicated version of Google Analytics, there isn't really a major advantage beyond the fact that the interface is much sleeker and easier to navigate. In addition, the plugin is available from within your WordPress install, further centralizing all of your page's functionalities.
This plugin does much of what its older brother does, including:
- General analytics reports
- In-depth page/post reports
- Real-time visitor statistics
- Real-time acquisition channels and traffic sources
- And more...
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