WordPress.org has been one of the most famous CMS platforms since its launch in 2003.
Its success is primarily attributed to one thing: WordPress's unmatched flexibility.
Its simple framework allows users to design and populate professional-looking websites and blogs quickly. That said, its true power lies in its extensive plugin directory. From here, you can choose from over 59,000 plugins to install and use.
Thanks to WordPress’s popularity, it's often the first platform developers want to provide an integration for. As a result, new plugin options arise near-on daily!
For the uninitiated, plugins are a simple way of empowering you to extend the functionality of your website and/or offer greater design freedom from the convenience of your WordPress dashboard. For instance, with reputable plugins, you can:
- Add eCommerce functionality
- Improve your customer service
- Deliver more engaging forms
- Offer slicker navigation
- Optimize your SEO
The list goes on…
Fortunately, there's good news for anyone just starting out or looking to save money. Thousands of WordPress plugins are free (or at least offer a free plan) suitable for small businesses.
So with an ocean of plugins and possibilities to traverse, where do you start? Which plugins will reliably get the job done and make the biggest difference to your website?
That said, this article introduces you to the best free WordPress plugins on the market to help get you started.
Let's dive in!
Best Free WordPress Plugins for eCommerce: WooCommerce
No free WordPress plugin listicle could fail to include WooCommerce as one of its top mentions.
The WooCommerce plugin is currently live on over 4.4 million websites and powers over 28% of all online stores. Like WordPress, it's an open-source framework, making it completely free to install and use. You'll also own all of your WooCommerce content and retain complete control over it.
WooCommerce is an eCommerce and shopping cart solution designed by WordPress’s team. It enables users to create fully functional online stores from the convenience of their WordPress websites. You can sell both physical and digital products.
WooCommerce’s key features include the simple management of product pages. Here you can organize products using: tags, categories, variations, attributes, etc. You can also collect product ratings and reviews and let customers filter products on your site to find what they're looking for straight away.
You can also use inventory and order management features to manage all fulfillment yourself and easily connect with the best shipping carriers. WooCommerce even allows you to sell unlimited products anytime and lets shoppers create customer accounts on your website or use guest checkouts.
Frankly, we've only skimmed the surface of what WooCommerce offers, but we don't have space to delve into all of its features here.
As open-source software, WooCommerce is completely free to use. However, costs may arise if you're looking to:
- Install other plugins to complement WooCommerce's functionality
- Purchase premium WooCommerce/WordPress themes
- Engage the help of WooCommerce developers to maintain or improve your site.
However, those running simple stores or those tech-savvy enough to maintain their own websites can quickly get away with spending next-to-nothing on their WooCommerce sites.
The Smart Notification Bar plugin does exactly what it says on the tin. With this plugin, you can display a notification bar that appears across your whole site or only on select pages. Here you can provide shoppers with helpful recommendations, information, and discounts. Not to mention, intelligent notification bars make it easier to present call-to-actions that inspire actual engagement.
With targeting features, you can easily display valuable messages at the right time. For example, you can target visitors based on where they've come from or what device they're using.
Notification bar templates are also available. These work wonders for simplifying the design process. On top of that, you also have the power to customize the look and feel of your bar with custom backgrounds and an intuitive color picker to keep the notification bar on-brand.
Lastly, you can also grab attention with an animated call to action button besides text content.
Right now, Smart Notification Bar requires a one-time purchase with no recurring fees for just $14.99. However, this plugin will soon become free to use, so stay tuned for that!
Gift Hunt Plugin
Anyone who enjoys reading up on current retail and eCommerce trends knows that brand loyalty heavily correlates with a unique user experience.
Thankfully, the Gift Hunt plugin offers a novel way to engage online shoppers. Aptly named, this plugin enables you to create gift hunts on your website. This works wonders to drive more traffic around your site and increase visitors' time on your web pages. For example, you can create easter egg hunts, treasure hunts, Christmas gift hunts, etc.
Here’s how it works: Once visitors have spent some time on your site, a ‘hunt' icon pops up. When visitors click this, they’re notified that they've found a gift. They're then encouraged to provide their email address to receive their gift via their inbox. This is an excellent list-building tool and an exciting way for customers to get a little extra out of your brand, like discounts and freebies.
Pre-built gift icons are available. However, you can also upload a custom image that better suits your brand. You can even animate your icon and choose from dive different designs for your popup notifications. If you have any web design knowledge, you can further customize these yourself.
Like the Smart Notification Bar, The Gift Hunt plugin is currently available for a one-time purchase of $19.99 but will soon become free to use!
Best Free WordPress Plugins for SEO: Yoast SEO
You can't underestimate the importance of WordPress SEO. In fact, it can increase the business value of a blog post by 429% and offer as much as 12.2x ROI marketing spend.
Out of all the plugins that help improve your SEO, Yoast SEO is by far the most famous – and for a good reason. Yoast helps you meet all the SEO standards and requirements by providing all the tools and guidance you need to optimize your content for SEO and readability.
It does this with a simple traffic-light wizard that shows which areas of your site already rank in the “green” and, conversely, which need more work. This straightforward layout makes SEO accessible to beginners.
This makes it easy to spot opportunities for improvement. You can also view SEO tips that tell you exactly what to do. The plugin also recognizes dead links, enabling you to take action and set up a solid internal linking structure. Not to mention, Yoast also creates XML sitemaps so that Google can easily understand your website's structure.
Lastly, the Yoast SEO plugin is available in 21 languages and integrates with several popular tools, including Semrush, Elementor, and Zapier.
Yoast comes with a free plan that provides everything you need to start ranking higher in search engines. It automatically takes care of the technical aspects of your site’s SEO, such as sitemap generation. It also unlocks access to six free courses on SEO best practices.
Yoast's premium version is available for $99 per year and adds keyword optimization and other useful features.
Jetpack is another completely native WordPress plugin that covers lots of essentials. So much so, in fact, that many hosting providers and WordPress.com’s own hosted solutions already include Jetpack’s basic functionality in their plans.
This security plugin helps improve your web hosting capabilities by introducing more security, backups, better speed, and facilitating website growth. Jetpack security offers 24/7 site protection with automated real-time backups and easy restores. It also offers malware scanning and protects you from spam, as well as monitoring up and downtime.
The activity log allows you to view who made which changes and when. In addition, you’ll benefit from protected, more secure logins on your website.
Jetpack can automatically update individual plugins to make your site maintenance more manageable.
Finally, this backup plugin provides advanced site statistics and analytics to help you better understand your audience.
Jetpacks’ core features are entirely free; these include:
- Site stats
- CDN for images
- Related posts
- Downtime monitoring
- Brute force attack protecting
- Automatic sharing to social media networks
- Sidebar customization
- SEO tools
Jetpack recommends purchasing a premium plan that includes real-time backups, security scans, and many other features for monetized websites. Their paid versions range from $9.95 to $99.95 per month (billed annually). Alternatively, you can add specific features individually for a lower monthly price.
Best Free WordPress Plugins for Page Building: Elementor
Elementor has long since provided WordPress users with WYSIWYG editing and drag-and-drop functionality. As a result, over 10 million websites are built using Elementor's page builder, and the tool has established an active global community.
Historically, WordPress has been a little more cumbersome when it comes to its design. For example, you might have had to make theme edits in a sidebar and see your website change accordingly. Or, for more granular web design edits, WordPress users would need to customize their web pages by tinkering with the CSS code. As such, traditionally, making quick, intuitive changes with complete design control was impossible.
Elementor also provides custom kits that form a wireframe for your next project, enabling you to get started quicker. Essentially, this acts like a customizable theme already populated with useful page structures and placeholder content.
Elemento is available for free and comes with all significant core features. However, you’ll need to upgrade if you want access to the theme builder, custom CSS, WooCommerce compatibility, form and popups, and the role manager. The Pro version can be purchased for $49 per year to use with one website. Or you can buy Elementor for 25-1000 website activations, with prices ranging from $199 to $999 per year.
MonsterInsights is a popular WordPress analytics plugin, with over three million installs to date. It provides a range of insights that help you better understand your website visitors and customers and your current SEO performance.
MonsterInsights covers over 100 data points, including:
- User behavior
- Real-time analytics
- eCommerce reports
- SEO ranking reports
…and much more.
All data is consolidated in one dashboard and presented in easily readable graphs and charts. You can see visitor demographics at a glance, including your visitors' gender, age, location, session length, and devices. You can also review your conversion rates, the total number of transactions and revenue, and your store's average order value.
Lastly, insights are highly granular. For instance, you can generate data on:
- Each post and page
- Track your affiliate links and ads
- Track categories, tags, authors, searches, etc
MonsterInsights is additionally fully GDPR friendly.
MonsterInsights' full version is unfortunately quite pricey, starting from $199 per year for a single site. The Pro version, which unlocks all advanced tools and reports, costs $399 per year.
You can, however, access a freemium version, MonsterInsights Lite. This still includes valuable features for tracking website performance. For example, you can:
- Install the Google Analytics wizard
- Find out which external links get the most clicks
- Receive visitor demographics
- Track file downloads
- Optimize post titles for SEO
All in all, MonsterInsights Lite may work well for users without eCommerce needs, but store owners will likely want to upgrade.
Best Free WordPress Plugins for License-free Images: Unsplash
Unsplash is an online image library that provides access to millions of high-quality stock photos to populate your site with. Finding top-notch visuals can be challenging, especially if you don’t have access to photography or illustration yourself. However, with Unsplash, you can find the right image for nearly any use case.
Unsplash easily allows you to search its vast image library powered by creators worldwide. In addition, it suggests several trending keywords and collections across categories like Fashion and Wellness, People, Interiors, Textures and Patterns, Architecture, and much more.
You can use Unsplash without a WordPress account. However, linking your WordPress site with the WordPress Unsplash Plugin makes it easier to source and configure images for your WordPress blog posts or web pages.
The plugin has been downloaded over 5,000 times and comes with some nifty features. For example, Unsplash’s image CDN ensures the photos you add are the right size and won’t slow down your website performance. Images also include relevant alt descriptions for screen readers to improve your site's accessibility and SEO.
With Unsplash's license covering all images, you can rest assured that every photo can be downloaded and used for free, both commercially and non-commercially. You don’t need to acquire permission, though attribution is always appreciated.
Unsplash is entirely free to use.
The NextGen Gallery plugin was made by photographers for photographers to enable you to set your photography in the most elegant and stylish fashion possible.
The plugin totals over 700,000 installations and is regularly updated by its developers. Since 2007, it's achieved over 1.5 million new downloads each year.
NextGen creates a WordPress gallery management system for the backend of your site, allowing upload photos and import metadata in bulk.
You can add, delete and rearrange images in your gallery, edit thumbnails, group galleries into albums, etc.
There are three main gallery styles available:
- Image browser gallery
That's as well as two album styles:
For each style, you can control your gallery's size, style, timing, transitions, and lightbox effects. In addition, thanks to compatibility with the Gutenberg WordPress editor, you can add NextGen galleries anywhere on your site.
NextGen Galleries, as described above, is free to download and use. However, the developers also offer pro versions with additional gallery styles and features. This also unlocks social sharing, hover captions, image protection, full-screen lightboxes, and more.
NextGen Gallery Pro’s pricing ranges from $69 to $139 per year. Alternatively, you can purchase lifetime access for use on unlimited sites for a one-time fee of $349.
Are You Ready to Start Using The Best Free WordPress Plugins?
So, there you have it. This concludes our list of the best free WordPress plugins. While many of the plugins above offer extended features with their paid plans, their free versions provide a range of valuable benefits to help improve your site.
There are tons of free WordPress plugins worth exploring to create more engaging galleries, optimize your SEO, learn more about your customers, and add a fully functional eCommerce store to your site.
Thousands of users have tried and tested the free plugins above. All of them come highly recommended in WordPress's plugin directory. So, why not fully use WordPress’s flexibility by engaging with its wide range of free and paid plugins?
What are your favorite free WordPress plugins? Are you considering others we haven't had time to mention in this round-up? For instance, WP Super Cache (caching plugin), updraftplus (WordPress backup plugin), W3 Total Cache, Rank Math, Smush (image optimization plugin), wordfence (WordPress security plugin), or Mailchimp (email marketing plugin). Let us know in the comments below.