Indispensable: The 9 best WordPress plugins (all free!)

The free CMS WordPress officially has almost 60,000 plugins. But which WordPress plugins do you really need? I present you 9 free WordPress plugins that will make your website better!

Hardly any WordPress site can do completely without plugins – that’s not even necessary. There are numerous useful and good WordPress plugins out there that can equip your site in terms of SEO, privacy, user-friendliness but also with great features.

With almost a decade of experience with WordPress, I think I can put together a pretty good selection for you here. 🙂

All the presented plugins are free to use. Some also offer a premium version to unlock more features.

Disclaimer: All the presented plugins are free to use. Some also offer a premium version to unlock more features.

On the internet you can find many lists, which sometimes present 30, 50 or even more WordPress plugins at once. This list is deliberately kept quite small and that has a specific reason:

Less is more!

This is true for many things in life, including the number of WordPress plugins.

There is no guideline how many plugins a WordPress site may have at least or maximum. But from my own experience I know that most sites use between 5-25 plugins.

But why is that so important anyway?

Almost every plugin that is installed and activated requires processing power when the page is called up, since it naturally has to perform its tasks in the background – be it the generation of images, insertion of content or SEO adjustments. All of this is a drain on your website’s resources.

And another thing: Not for all functions you need a plugin. How you can create a table of contents in WordPress without a plugin and many more great things you will learn at the end of the post.

1. Hummingbird

Category: SEO/Caching // 100,000+ active installations

Hummingbird Dashboard
Hummingbird Dashboard

Hummingbird is a comprehensive plugin which, besides its main task of caching resources (JS & CSS files), can significantly improve the general page speed through numerous techniques, such as lazy loading, load integration or world-class caching.

There are other caching plugins, like WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache, both of which also have more than 1 million active installs. I have also tested these plugins in the past and was able to achieve the best results with Hummingbird.

The plugin also gives you useful tips for server configuration, e.g. to enable Gzip compression under Apache2 and nginx. Speed tests are evaluated directly via the plugin and suitable settings are suggested.

Hummingbird Performance Report
Hummingbird Performance Report

For whom is this plugin suitable?

Actually for everyone. Every user is happy when a page loads fast and it can also reduce the server load. So if you don’t use a caching plugin yet, this plugin is a good choice.

➜ Install Hummingbird

2. Advanced Custom Fields

Category: Features for content editor // 2+ Millions active installations

Advanced Custom Fields - Edit Group
Advanced Custom Fields – Edit Group

Advanced Custom Fields is one of my favorite plugins. With this plugin you can – as the name suggests – create your own fields/attributes. Specifically, this means that you can set individual options for specific pages, templates, post types or taxonomies.

If you would like to assign a specific color to each category, you can do so here. Do you want to be able to set a price for each page with the “Product” template? No problem with Advanced Custom Fields.

Advanced Custom Fields - Insert Data
Advanced Custom Fields – Insert Data

With the Pro version you have some additional features, like creating your own Gutenberg Blocks or the function of “Repeating Fields”. The latter is very useful and saves a lot of work, because you don’t have to create Slide1, Slide2, Slide3,… for a slider. You can simply create a repeating field “Slide” and then create as many slides as you want dynamically.

For whom is this plugin suitable?

For those who want to create/program their own content blocks and add more attributes and properties to individual page types.

➜ Install Advanced Custom Fields

3. Rank Math

Category: SEO // 1+ Million of active installations

Rank Math Dashboard
Rank Math Dashboard

Rank Math is one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress, along with Yoast SEO. Besides the usual functions like setting title, description and keywords, Rank Math can also output structured data. This helps Google to present your site more interesting to the user. For example, reviews, recipes or job descriptions can be placed in appropriate tabs on Google – this creates better visibility.

In addition, the plugin offers many more features to help you with the SEO process.

Recently, Rank Math also offers a content AI feature, which is supposed to suggest matching keywords and content to you in order to better tailor the content to your visitors.

For whom is this plugin suitable?

For anyone who runs a website to be found by search engines – so almost everyone.

➜ Install Rank Math

4. Contact Form 7

Category: Features // 5+ Millions active installations

Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7

This plugin is in my eyes the best WordPress plugin to embed custom forms.

You can create as many forms as you want and equip them with all kinds of text fields, checkboxes, dropdowns, file uploads and privacy checkboxes. You can set all imaginable options like placeholders, labels or input types (tel, email, number, …). Integration with Google reCaptcha is also available.

When the form is submitted you can set the mail template where automatically the data can be inserted. Also shipping and error notifications can be set. In the area of the form there is actually nothing that this plugin can not do.

The plugin Contact Form 7 Database Addon – CFDB7 additionally offers the possibility to write the form data into the database and retrieve it via the backend.

For whom is this plugin suitable?

For anyone who wants to have their own (self-maintainable) form on their website (HTML knowledge is helpful).

➜ Install Contact Form 7

5. Newsletter

Category: Feature/User engagement // 400,000+ active installations

Newsletter Overview
Newsletter Overview

This plugin is responsible for managing subscribers and sending newsletters. Using self-configurable forms, you can subscribe to the newsletter, go through a registration process (also double opt-in possible) and receive newsletters in the future. Of course, you can change your data at any time or unsubscribe from the newsletter completely.

Thereby you can divide your subscribers into several lists to separate them e.g. by topic.

Using a simple drag-n-drop builder, the newsletters can then be easily clicked together and saved as templates for the next newsletters. When you are satisfied, you choose a subject, check the newsletter with a test mail and then the newsletter can go out to your subscribers.

Create newsletter by drag-n-drop
Create newsletter by drag-n-drop

Statistics show you how your content is being received by your subscribers and what you might be able to improve in the future.

For whom is this plugin suitable?

For anyone who wants to build a community and provide their (blog) readers with regular updates.

➜ Install Newsletter

6. Polylang

Category: Feature // 600,000+ active installations

Polylang language overview
Polylang language overview

There is not much to say about this plugin – and that in a positive sense. If you want to add more than one language to your website, Polylang is the right choice. It’s simple, works great and you can even replace other strings that are present on your website.

For whom is this plugin suitable?

For anyone who wants to make their content available in multiple languages.

➜ Install Polylang

Make sure that your plugins always have the latest updates installed. Possible security gaps will be closed. Check every 7-14 days if updates are available. Alternative: You can activate automatic plugin updates under Plugins on the right side under Activate automatic updates.

7. Useful tool plugins

The next plugins are plugins that can be installed as needed and are rather small tools for specific tasks. Some of them you can also activate only temporarily when you need them to save resources.

7.1 Regenerate Thumbnails

Active installations: 1+ Million

Regenerate Thumbnails
Regenerate Thumbnails

If you have reworked your site and need new SEO optimized image sizes this plugin is the right tool for you. It can (re)generate all media files or just the post images in all set image sizes. This has always worked very reliably for me, but you should create a backup beforehand to be on the safe side.

For whom is this plugin suitable?

For anyone who needs to regenerate image sizes, for example when changing a theme or to improve SEO values.

➜ Install Regenerate Thumbnails

7.2 Move WordPress site

To move a WordPress site e.g. to a new domain you don’t need a plugin, you can simply follow this guide:

➜ Move WordPress site

7.3 Antispam Bee

Active installations: 700,000+

Antispam Bee statistics on my dashboard
Antispam Bee statistics on my dashboard

Antispam Bee is a small plugin that works in the background and blocks spam comments and trackbacks to keep your comments section clean.

I was struggling with spam but that’s over. In “good” times Antispam Bee blocks about 100 spam comments from me – every day!

Antispam Bee settings page
Antispam Bee settings page

Through further settings, blocked comments are also automatically deleted after a certain time. Familiar commenters are recognized and much more. The plugin is also “Developed with data protection and privacy in mind” according to developers.

For whom is this plugin suitable?

For anyone who uses the comment and or trackback function on their page.

➜ Install Antispam Bee

Not for all functionalities and features you necessarily need a WordPress plugin. With a few small code snippets you can achieve a lot. Please have a look at my article about WordPress Snippets.

What do you estimate: How many plugins do I have installed on this site? 🙂

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