Making a success of your new WordPress website in 2023 doesn’t have to mean spending a small fortune. By installing the best free WordPress plugins currently available, you extend your site to offer the kind of flawless functionality that results in exceptional user experiences, repeat visits, and even revenue.
The only question is what exactly constitutes the “best” when it comes to plugins.
What separates WordPress’ top free tools from the plethora of good-but-not-great options currently filling up the WordPress Plugins Directory?
Which plugins do you really need to help your site succeed and grow in the modern age, and which plugins are really worth your time?
It’s these questions and more that I’ll answer in today’s guide.
Over the last several years, I’ve successfully grown my content website portfolio from $0 to several million dollars in revenue. Along the way, I’ve tried countless free plugins to help me maximize the potential of my WordPress sites while minimizing my outgoing expenses, and the top tools I’m about to share with you today are the ones I consider to be the very best of the best.
5 Best Free WordPress Plugins in 2023
Below, I’ll share with you my top picks, explain why they’re so essential for any new website owner, and outline everything you need to know about using free WordPress plugins in 2023.
It’s impossible to spend much time in the WordPress community without hearing about Yoast SEO.
Boasting over 5 million active installations, Yoast is one of the most popular free plugins around right now, and not without good reason.
Whether you’re a newcomer learning how to write a blog post for the first time and need a little guidance on how to fully optimize that post, or you’re a well-established brand committed to using content marketing as a growth tool, Yoast makes Search Engine Optimization (SEO) accessible to all.
Once installed, this critically-acclaimed plugin analyzes your posts as you write, giving you up-to-date feedback on keyword placement, post titles and subheadings, and everything you need to create a truly remarkable piece of content.
From there, you can use Yoast to optimize your post titles and meta descriptions for search engines and social media and implement essential SEO features like XML sitemaps, schema markup, and more.
If you’re serious about getting your content out to the masses and truly making a success of your WordPress website in 2023, Yoast SEO should be one of the very first plugins you install.
- Content optimization analysis and recommendations
- Canonical URLs
- Meta tags
- XML sitemaps
- Optimized titles
- Schema.org integration.
Pros and Cons of Yoast
Yoast Premium Version
You can use Yoast to turbocharge your SEO without paying a penny. Still, if you want advanced features such as dead link detection, social media sharing previews, link suggestions, and content quality analysis, you can buy Yoast Premium for $99 per year.
How to Get Started With Yoast SEO?
- Go to Plugins – Add New on the WordPress Dashboard.
- Search for ‘Yoast SEO.’
- Activate and Install the Plugin.
- Select the ‘SEO’ tab from your dashboard menu and access the ‘SEO workouts’ to configure your settings and start using Yoast to optimize your website for search engines.
You can have the most optimized content in the world, but if your site is hacked or otherwise compromised, all of your hard work is going to be for nothing.
That’s to say nothing of the fact that if you’re collecting customer data on your website (be it a simple email address or even payment information), then you need to keep that data safe. It only takes one data leak to ruin your reputation for good.
This is where Sucuri proves invaluable.
My pick of the all-around best WordPress security plugin right now, this essential tool contains everything you need to ensure optimum site security without spending a penny.
The SiteCheck scanner consistently goes through all of your content to ensure there are no security vulnerabilities or harmful code, while the useful WordPress hardening features find other areas of your site that could leave you susceptible to attack and adds an extra layer of protection.
Add in regular security notifications so that you’re always informed of any potential problems, and what you’ve got here is another essential plugin that no WordPress site should be without.
- Malware scanning
- Blocklist monitoring
- Security hardening features
- Integrity checking
- Post-hack options
- Firewall integration.
Pros and Cons of Sucuri
If you want to integrate your security plugin with the Sucuri Firewall, increase the frequency of your malware scanning or take advantage of advanced DDoS mitigation, these are all features that you’ll need to pay for.
Sucuri’s premium upgrades start at $9.99 per month, with multiple options available to better suit your needs.
How to Get Started With Sucuri?
- Install the plugin from your WordPress plugin dashboard
- Generate an API key from the plugin’s dashboard page
- Configure and save your settings to start protecting your WordPress website.
Akismet is so fundamentally vital to running a successful website that you’ll often find it already in your plugins menu when you install WordPress for the first time.
Why is it so important?
Because, it solves the headache of having your comments section overrun by spammers.
Given that WordPress is the most popular website building tool around, it’s no wonder that the platform is a haven for shady blackhat SEO tactics like content spamming which can ruin your website’s reputation and make your whole site look like a neglected amateur effort.
Akismet prevents your site from such a fate by scanning and monitoring every comment on your website and removing anything that isn’t a legitimate comment from a genuine site visitor.
And if you’re worried about real comments slipping through the cracks?
All you need to do is edit the strictness settings so that all comments Askimet thinks are spam go directly to your spam folder.
Providing you check this folder regularly, you can always flag up real comments and reinstate them on your site, though, to be honest, I’ve found that Akismet does such a fine job of distinguishing legitimate comments from spam that I rarely -if ever- have to do this.
- Automated spam protection
- Integration with top WordPress form plugins
- In-built privacy notice
- Detailed spam-blocking statistics and supports.
Pros and Cons of Akismet
Akismet Commercial Upgrades
If you’re running a large-scale, enterprise-level website or multi-site network, you may find that Askimet’s personal-site level protection isn’t cutting it.
At that point, you might want to upgrade to one of three premium plans which allow you to run Akismet on unlimited websites with advanced protection and access to priority support.
These plans range from $7 to $170 per year, depending on the level of protection you need.
How to Get Started With Akismet?
- Access the Pre-installed plugin from your WordPress plugins dashboard or install it if it isn’t already there
- Generate and save an API Key
- Configure the filtering strictness and other settings via the Akismet dashboard to start protecting your site from spam.
Whether you want to make money from your blog by selling digital products such as eBooks or launch a full-scale online store, WooCommerce is the best free WordPress plugin for the job.
This powerful tool turns your core WordPress installation into a fully-functioning eCommerce site, complete with products, product categories, shopping carts, checkouts, and even coupons for building brand loyalty.
Elsewhere, WooCommerce integrates with all major payment gateways and processing tools such as Stripe, PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard so that customers can pay for your goods safely and securely.
Fully customizable to blend flawlessly with the top free WordPress themes and a host of paid theme options, WooCommerce is the go-to eCommerce solution for millions of online businesses and is a no-brainer for anyone looking to make money with a website in 2023.
- Product pages for both physical and digital products
- 100+ payment gateway integrations
- Integration with major shipping carriers such as UPS and FedEx
- Clear and detailed reports and statistics
- Large library of extensions for added functionality.
Pros and Cons of WoCommerce
The core WooCommerce plugin will always be free with no premium plan available.
However, if you want to expand its basic functionality to improve marketing, sales, and all-around customer experience, you may need to add a few extensions.
Though many of these are also free, there are a lot of premium options too, which cost anywhere from as little as $10 per month to in excess of $200 per month.
How to get started with WooCommerce?
- Search for ‘WooCommerce’ from your WordPress plugins dashboard
- Activate and install the plugin
- Select the ‘WooCommerce’ tab from your main WP dashboard
- Configure the settings before adding products and building your store.
5. WP Forms
There are countless free plugins for building forms on WordPress, but WP Forms is undoubtedly my favorite.
I’m not alone either.
Currently used by over 5 million WordPress users, WP Forms makes creating secure, high-quality forms a breeze thanks to its intuitive drag-and-drop editor and range of customizable options.
You don’t even necessarily need to build that form from scratch either, as the plugin comes with dozens of pre-built form templates to help you set up everything from simple contact forms to newsletter sign-ups, invitation registrations, and RSVPs, product order forms, and more.
Many of these templates are even categorized by theme and niche, so no matter whether you’re running a beauty salon or a boutique marketing agency, it will only take a few moments to give visitors the ability to contact you.
All form entries can be sent directly to your email address as well as stored in your WordPress back-end for easy access, while advanced spam protection and other key security features give your users the peace of mind in knowing that their contact with your site is as safe as can be.
- 300+ form templates
- Drag-and-drop form builder
- Smart conditional logic for improved performance
- Form response notifications
- Form entry management
- Smart captcha and spam protection
- Split longer forms over multiple pages to improve user experience
- Integrate with top email marketing tools for improved newsletter signups.
Pros and Cons of WP Forms
WP Forms Pro
While the free version of WP Forms is great in its own right for creating lots of different types of forms, if you want to collect payments with your forms, integrate with the best email marketing tools like MailChimp, or access advanced form fields, you’ll need to upgrade to the pro version.
This is available in four different pricing plans ranging from a relatively inexpensive $39 per year for a single site license up to $299 for use on unlimited sites.
How to Get Started With WP Forms?
- Search for WP Forms in your Plugins dashboard
- Install and activate the plugin
- Head to the WP Forms tab on your dashboard to configure settings and create your first form.
How to Choose the Best Free WordPress Plugins for Your Website
The five tools I’ve listed above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the range of amazing free WordPress plugins you’ll find out there.
Still, for every excellent tool like WooCommerce or Yoast SEO, there are also plenty of free plugins that just aren’t up to scratch and are best avoided.
How do you tell the difference?
Honestly, it’s pretty simple.
Below, I’ll outline the key factors to look out for when choosing free plugins for your website, each one of which was top of my list when picking out the five plugins I’ve shared with you today.
1. Core Features
The main reason to install any WordPress plugin is to add some form of additional functionality to your website.
That could be behind-the-scenes functionality that helps you manage your website more efficiently and effectively, or it could be on the front-end to improve your overall user experience.
Whatever the case may be, the first thing to look for is what kind of features you’ll be able to access.
In other words, does the free version of the plugin do what you need it to do, or are certain features restricted to paid-only versions.
Although I’m generalizing here, all free plugins have some kind of premium version or upgrade option, but if you can access the features you need without paying anything, that’s obviously going to work out in your favor.
I’ve mentioned time and time again how important it is that your site loads quickly. Not only will a poorly performing site struggle to achieve prominence in Google search results, but it will also -more importantly- prove to be a huge turn-off to your visitors.
What does this have to do with plugins?
In a word, everything.
Ultimately, all plugins use up resources that affect your site performance to some degree.
The trick is to avoid those large, bloated plugins that slow your site down and stick with those lightweight options which provide all the functionality you need without forcing you to compromise on site speed.
3. Ease of Use
One of the most important factors I considered when choosing the top five best free WordPress plugins is whether or not they were easy enough to use for those relatively new to running a WordPress website.
After all, a plugin could be the lightest, most feature-rich tool on the market, but if it’s an absolute chore to use or is simply too consuming, that’s going to make managing your site more difficult, and isn’t that the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve with plugins?
4. Compatibility and Updates
When you’ve found a free plugin you like, it’s worth checking out user reviews to investigate whether it has any known compatibility issues.
Due to a myriad of reasons, some plugins just don’t play well with each other, while others may conflict with certain WordPress themes.
The best way to avoid this is to install plugins that have been updated relatively recently to keep abreast of the many developments to the WordPress core files, as these are much less likely to have issues.
One of the main reasons why people upgrade from free plugins to their premium versions is to access better customer support, but that doesn’t mean that a free tool should be completely unsupported.
At the very least, developers should be on the ball with responding to questions and comments on their plugin’s page in the WordPress Plugins Directory.
With that in mind, you might want to check out those plugins first to see how well those developers do at providing support.
Do they reply relatively quickly with helpful answers? If so, that’s a good sign that you’ll be able to access support when you need it most.
If they don’t reply quickly (or at all), or if the answers are vague and not very useful, it may be time to look elsewhere.
Frequently Asked Questions About Free WordPress Plugins
Frequently Asked Questions About Free WordPress Plugins
How do I know if a WordPress plugin is free?
The best way to see if a WordPress plugin is free is to check the WordPress Plugins Directory. If it’s on there, there’ll be a free version you can use. If it’s on a third-party website, there might still be a free version, but it’s much more likely that you’ll have to pay for it.
How can I get free WordPress plugins?
From your WordPress dashboard, click “Plugins” then “Add New.” Add some relevant keywords into the search bar (such as “security,” “SEO,” or “email marketing,” for example”) to see which free plugins are available, then click “Install” and “Activate.”
Do I need WordPress plugins?
Though it’s technically possible to build a basic website without plugins, it’s not advisable. Even if you only install back-end tools to improve the security of your site, adding at least a few plugins will make a dramatic difference to the way your site performs.
Best Free WordPress Plugins to Use in 2023: My Final Verdict
The thousands of free WordPress plugins available offer such a wide range of different features and functionality that comparing two or more plugins to determine the best of the best can often be akin to comparing apples and oranges.
If you need a quick and easy way to build high-quality web forms, for example, you’d undoubtedly pick a product like WP Forms, but you wouldn’t necessarily say that it was better than the top spam protection tool Akismet, as although these two plugins are the very best at what they do, each one’s primary purpose is very different from the other.
Ultimately then, it all comes down to what you need that plugin to do.
If you’re aiming to start an eCommerce store or add a few products to your blog, then there’s no better free plugin than WooCommerce, whereas if you wanted to ensure your site was fully safe and secure, you’d have a hard time finding anything that offers more easy-to-use features than Sucuri.
That said, given just how important effective Search Engine Optimization is to ensure the success of your site, there’s no denying that Yoast SEO is quite possibly the most invaluable free WordPress plugin you could install today.