In the last few months I spent some time trying many plugins for my blog. I wasn’t hunting for fancy functionalities at all costs, I was only searching for specific features.
This post is the first from a series of four, where I’m sharing the list of FREE plugins that I came up with. Some of them were mentioned in a blog post earlier this year, but in this series I’ll provide you with a more up to date list. The titles below represent the exact plugin names, so you can easily find them in WordPress.org repository. So, let’s start with the most important ones.
All In One WP Security
Once you started a blog, one of your biggest concern should be security enforcement. You don’t want to realize sooner or later, more often later, that someone has injected malicious code into your database, or hijacked your credentials. There are quite a few security plugins out there, but I think “All In One WP Security” is one of the best.
It has a ton of options, but in my opinion, you should not activate the ones enabling captcha in forms, it could annoy your visitors trying to post a comment or contact you. Also, some of them tend to break some of back-end and front-end functionalities. Play with them and decide which ones are suitable for your particular WP installation.
Update Nov. 20, 2015: I don’t really know why I overlooked Wordfence for so long, because this plugin is in fact the most popular WordPress security plugin in the world! And for a good reason: besides blocking access, it scans and compares your files with every single WP core file, plugin and theme version that was ever released hosted on a cloud infrastructure, just to make sure that no file on your website is changed without a good reason.
It’s quality is judged by over a million happy users and over 2000 five star ratings! In contrast to “All In One Security” above, it simply works with zero config.
Besides security, it can boost your website speed significantly. I don’t know if 30-50 times as they claim, but significantly anyway.
With this plugin you get 2 extremely important functionalities: security and caching, both server and client side. I played also with the famous “W3 Total Cache” and many others, but nothing compares to Wordfence according to my tests.
This is the standard comment anti-spam plugin that is installed by default on any fresh WP blog. All you have to do is activate the plugin and get a key from Akismet website, and you can opt for a payed or a free plan.
Each time a new comment, trackback, or pingback is added to your site it’s submitted to the Akismet web service which runs hundreds of tests on it and returns a thumbs up or thumbs down, thus protecting you from both human and automatic commentators.
Cookies for Comments
Cookies for comments is another plugin that helps your blog to reject the bots trying to automatically post comments.
It uses a simple yet effective mechanism, based on a cookie created by the comment form, that is subsequently checked during form submission. This way, any direct access to the form submission URL is denied.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
There are a ton of plugins out there connecting your blog to Google Analytics, but this one stand out from the crowd by implementing ALL extended GA functionalities, including advanced links, remarketing, demographics, interests, events and others.
In addition, on your dashboard you’ll see a bunch of the most useful mini reports.
Implementing on-page SEO is a must for any blog. Besides the content, title and the description tag (excerpt) which you must care of by hand, there are many other SEO factors that cannot be implemented manually, but only by means of a plugin. Among all SEO plugins available on the net, Yoast is the best one IMO. It covers practically all SEO on-page factors, including:
- Rewrite titles and meta tags in the header section.
- Clean-up the header from unnecessary tags.
- Add Open Graph, Google and Twitter specific meta tags.
- Implement XML sitemap and pinging for optimized search engine indexing.
- Optimize permalinks
- Help you optimize post and page content to better comply with Google algorithms.
You can even customize most of them on a per post basis.
I hope you enjoy the first article from this plugin series. Check out the next post in the series.