When you’re making a new WordPress site from scratch, how do you decide which plugins are worth adding to your site?
WordPress is an open source content management system for building your website. Originally designed for blogging, WordPress is a flexible CMS that now powers a third of all websites, including Sony, Disney, TechCrunch, and Facebook. You can download tons of free and paid plugins and themes to customize your WordPress website to look any way you want, from ecommerce websites to restaurant sites.
A new WordPress plugin is created every hour. That’s an average of 168 a week. Once you find there are plugins that do what you want, you have to pick one that’s actively maintained, well coded, and works with your site design and layout. Picking the wrong plugin can break your site or leave you open to hackers.
To get you started with your WordPress redesign, these are the 10 best plugins for professional-looking websites that are free and easy to use.
1. Contact Form 7
Every site needs a way to get messages from users. Just posting an email address on your site could leave you open to spam. You could use comments, but you’re limited to the fields you can use and where comments appear. Contact Form 7 lets you set up a custom form with almost any field you can think of.
2. Duplicate Page
This plugin adds a duplicate page/post button to your site backend. You can copy and create new pages in the backend quickly. This is especially handy if you’re using a custom page template and want to keep every page consistent.
Redirection lets you add redirects to your site. This is helpful when you’re moving your site to a new domain or removing pages from your site. Instead of letting users hit a 404 page, you simply enter the old link and the new link you want to send users to instead. Make sure you test your rules though; you don’t want to send users to an infinite loop or to an irrelevant page.
Add social icons to your blog posts. The icons are simple, and you can set them to show up at the top and bottom. There’s even a share count to show how many times your article has been shared on social media, which is a great way to show social proof of your site’s popularity.
5. WP Responsive Menu
Sometimes the mobile menu for your WordPress theme opens to the side or interacts weirdly when you try it on your phone. Override poorly coded or designed responsive menus with a new one. No coding skills necessary!
6. Sticky Menu (or Anything!) on Scroll
Have a message you want to make sure every user sees? Put a sticky contact form on your sidebar, make your navigation stay at the top of the screen, or add a newsletter signup to your blog. The developers made it mobile friendly with the option to turn it off at certain screen resolutions. A quick warning, you will need to know the name of the HTML element you want, so you will need to be able to inspect your site code or guess the name of the code block.
I’ve included 2 options for SEO plugins, but you only need to pick one. Both are great tools for managing your metadata, viewing analytics data from your CMS, and optimizing your site. Yoast is one of the most popular WordPress plugins because it’s a flexible way to control your search optimization. Yoast has lots of options for advanced users with default metadata settings, problem detection, and SEO, keyword, and readability checks.
8. WP Meta SEO
On top of the features Yoast has, WP Meta SEO includes the ability to edit all page metadata from one screen with a handy character count, which is great for making sure you’re using target keywords on the right pages. I’d recommend WP Meta for SEO beginners because the dashboards and notifications are a little easier to use.
Add a site feedback form to find out what your visitors think of your site. You can also customize what the tab looks like on the frontend. If your traffic is low, you won’t get a lot of feedback, but this is helpful for medium and large sites. It does require you to create a free account on Webengage.com to view and edit your responses.
PageBuilder is the easiest way to make beautiful pages without the help of a designer or developer. For a lot of free themes, the homepage might look great, but all the other pages are bland. PageBuilder even comes with a dozen default templates for you to start designing without a lot of experience with web design. Unlike some other free plugins, the pages are mobile-friendly, and you can see exactly what the page will look like as you’re creating it.
What are your favorite WordPress plugins? Leave a comment below!