10 Free Essential Plugins to Use for Your WordPress Blog

by | December 2019 | 0 comments

Are you creating a new self-hosted WordPress.org blog or converting over a WordPress.com blog?

Perhaps you’ve already installed an awesome WordPress Theme, but maybe it doesn’t have all the features you need for your site.

Enter PLUGINS, one of the best features of having your own self-hosted WordPress site! Wondering which plugins to use for your WordPress blog?

First things first though. Let’s talk about what Plugins are.

What are WordPress Plugins?

Plugins are add-ons to expand the functionality and customization of your WordPress site. Think of them as tools in your WordPress tool kit.

One of the main advantages of having a self-hosted WordPress.org site is being able to use Plugins. They’ll take your site to the next level!

There are THOUSANDS of WordPress Plugins to choose from, both free and paid ones. It can be overwhelming to know which ones to use.

That’s why I’ve put together this list of free Plugins to use for your WordPress blog.

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10 Free Plugins to use for your WordPress Blog

1. Yoast SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important component to gaining visibility and traffic for your site with search engines.

But SEO can be overwhelming and confusing. Luckily, the Yoast SEO plugin makes it super easy to improve your site’s SEO!

WordFence Security is an anti-virus, firewall and malware scan plugin that protects your site from brute force attacks. It does this with a firewall that identifies and blocks malicious traffic.

It also has a scanner that checks your website for malware, bad URLs, backdoors, SEO spam, malicious redirects and code injections. Keep your website safe with the WordFence Security plugin.

Site load time is extremely important for any site. If your site takes too long to load, your potential site visitors may give up waiting and move on. A caching plugin is key for improving your site’s speed.

I use the SG Optimizer plugin which is included with my hosting plan through SiteGround. It won’t work with any other hosting provider. So if you’re not using SiteGround as your host, you won’t be able to use the SG Optimizer plugin.

But there are plenty of other caching plugins. I definitely recommend using one to improve the speed of your site. WP Rocket is a premium caching plugin considered by many to be the most powerful one for fast site loading speed.

And I agree! As soon as I installed and activated the WP Rocket plugin (before optimizing any of the settings), there was an immediate increase in my site loading speed! Once I updated the settings, it was even faster!

Plus, WP Rocket works great with the Divi Theme and SiteGround web hosting. It even works hand-in-hand with SiteGround’s SG Optimizer plugin. I use both WP Rocket and SG Optimizer together as they complement one another for optimal site speed.

Since WP Rocket is a premium paid plugin, there is a cost for it. But at just $49 for a year, it’s well worth the small investment! And your license will renew at a 30% discount after one year… score! Give WP Rocket a try! You’ll notice a huge difference in your site’s speed.

Check out this post for How to Drastically Improve Your WordPress Site Speed with SG Optimizer and WP Rocket.

WP Rocket - WordPress Caching Plugin

The Anti-Spam plugin is just that. It’s a free plugin that blocks automatic spam in the comments section of your blog. You don’t want your real site visitors to see spam comments.

That could be a deterrent that prevents them from leaving real comments. So be sure to use a plugin to block spam comments from being left on your blog.

Akismet is another popular anti-spam plugin.  You can name your price for a personal, non-commercial plan.

If you’re using images throughout your site and blog posts, large image files can slow down your site loading speed.

The WP-Optimize plugin will compress your images to reduce file size without compromising image quality. It will also clean up your site’s database to free up space and improve speed. 

NOTE: If you’re using SG Optimizer or another caching plugin like WP Rocket, be sure to disable WP-Optimize’s caching service.

Social sharing buttons give your site visitors an easy way to share your content on their social media accounts. So they can be a huge help for driving traffic to your site.

I use the Sassy Social Share plugin to insert sharing buttons above and below my blog post content with a shortcode.

Tracking your data can be extremely helpful to see where the majority of your site traffic is coming from so you can focus on that source.

It’s also helpful for seeing which of your blog posts are the most popular. This information can be used to create other similar content to drive more traffic to your site.

Google Analytics helps you analyze your data. And the MonsterInsights plugin gives you a snapshot of your Google Analytics data right on your WordPress dashboard for easy access.

You may have used tinyurl.com, bit.ly, or other link shrinking services at some point to shorten URLs. Well, the Shortlinks by Pretty Links plugin lets you shorten URLs by creating a custom URL using your own domain name.

It’s great for affiliate links or other long, ugly links to other sites. The plugin also tracks the number of clicks on the custom URLs you create and provides a report of where the hit came from and more. This is especially helpful for tracking your affiliate links.

If you include links to outside sources in your blog posts, those links can change or the info the links lead to can be removed. You don’t want to direct your site visitors to a non-existent source.

That’s where the Broken Link Checker plugin comes in. It will notify you if any links on your site are no longer working, so you can fix them. It will also let you know if any images are missing.

One of the main reasons I use the Jetpack plugin is for the downtime monitor. It notifies me if my site is down, which I find very useful. It’s important for me to be alerted if my website can’t be accessed for some reason. That way I can get to work on resolving the issue to get my site back up as soon as possible.

Another reason I like using Jetpack is to see my site stats on my WordPress dashboard. And when I converted my WordPress.com blog to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog, I used Jetpack to transfer over my previous WordPress.com email subscribers.

You’ll also need Jetpack if you’re using WooCommerce for an online shop with your site. The Jetpack plugin has quite a few other features as well, but I just use the ones I mentioned here.

NOTE: If you’re using SG Optimizer or another caching plugin like WP Rocket, be sure to disable Jetpack’s caching service.

Divi WordPress Theme

Extra Plugins included with the Divi Theme

I use (and LOVE) the Divi Theme for this blog. The Divi Theme is a premium paid theme (#worthit) by Elegant Themes, and it comes with a few plugins that I also use and recommend:

• Bloom (included with the Divi Theme)

Bloom Email Optin Plugin

Email Subscribers are the lifeline of your blog. And the Bloom plugin from Elegant Themes makes it easy to add email opt-in forms throughout your website and blog posts.

Plus, it integrates with most popular email marketing service providers like MailerLite (what I use), MailChimp, Constant Contact, ConvertKit, and more.

Monarch (included with the Divi Theme)

Monarch Social Sharing Plugin

In addition to the Sassy Social Share plugin, I also use the Monarch plugin from Elegant Themes for the sidebar share buttons.

The only downside with the Monarch plugin is that there isn’t a way to add social sharing buttons with a shortcode. That’s why I also use Sassy Social Share.

I actually prefer the Monarch plugin. If it had the shortcode feature for the social sharing buttons, I would just use Monarch.

>>> Get 10% OFF the Bloom Plugin, Monarch Plugin, and Divi Theme here! <<<

Some other popular Plugins I’ve tried

I was using the UpDraft Plus plugin for automatically backing up my site’s content and database. And I really liked it, but then I found out that it was using 14 GB of storage! It made me reach my storage limit with my hosting plan and crashed my site.

Luckily, the customer support at SiteGround reminded me that hosting plans with SiteGround include automated daily backups. You can easily restore your site with SiteGround’s backups for free if needed.

A lot of people recommend the Smush plugin for image compression and optimization. So I gave it a try and really liked the usability of it. But unfortunately, it broke my site.

I’m not the most tech-savvy person, so it might have been user error. Maybe you won’t have the same experience with it.

These should give you a good idea of some plugins to use for your WordPress blog.

Not sure how to install and activate Plugins to use them? See my post here: How to Easily Start a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 5 Steps.

Keep in mind that not all Plugins work with all Themes, nor do all Plugins work with all other Plugins. Make sense?

If you’re having issues with your site, one of your Plugins may not be playing nice with the other Plugins or Theme.

Start by deactivating the most recently installed Plugin to see if that solves the problem. If not, keep deactivating Plugins in the order you installed them to see if one of them is the culprit.

Plugins can add a ton of functionality to your site. But they also use your site’s storage and can slow your site down or even cause your site to crash.

I recommend being conservative and careful with what Plugins you install. Install one at a time and only ones you think will truly improve your site’s functionality.

For a full list of 70+ Blogging Tools, Resources, and Plugins I use and recommend, download the FREE Ultimate Blogging Tools Checklist!

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Briana Nickas of Next Destination Unknown

Behind the Blog

Hey there! I’m Briana, a blogger, hiker, traveller, RVer, photo-taker, and National Parks lover who is passionate about exploring the great outdoors while practicing clean living for a healthier lifestyle to continue doing the things I live for. My goal is to inspire others to live a life focused on wellbeing and wandering. Join me!


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Blogging Tools I use, LOVE, and highly recommend:

  • SITEGROUND I use SiteGround as my web hosting provider for this self-hosted WordPress blog. Their plans are affordable and include must-have features. Learn more about SiteGround and their web hosting plans HERE.
  • DIVI THEME – I love the Divi Theme’s page builder to create a fully customizable website. Plus, it comes with some super handy plugins! Get 10% OFF the Divi Theme HERE.
  • WP ROCKET – Site speed is critical for blogs. I use the WP Rocket Plugin in conjunction with my SiteGround hosting and their SG Optimizer plugin for a super fast site. Check out the WP Rocket plugin HERE.
  • CANVA – Canva makes it super easy to design eye-catching graphics and Pins for your blog. Sign up for a FREE Canva account and try Canva Pro FREE for 30 days HERE.
  • MAILERLITE – I love using MailerLite to design and send engaging emails to my subscribers. Get MailerLite FREE for your first 1,000 email subscribers HERE.

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