Whenever we setup a website on Wordpress, one of the first thing we do is install and configure free plugins. The rule "less is more" also applies for WordPress plugins. The more plugins you have, the more they can slow down your website, or worse yet, conflict with each other and cause problems.
These plugins are free to download, but also have useful paid features if you want to upgrade. Many plugin reviews are biased and favour plugins they can get a commission from, whereas this list is completely commission-free and based on years of trial and error using various Wordpress plugins.
1. SEO - Yoast SEO Plugin
Yoast SEO gives great insight into the Search Engine Optimization of your blog post. Enter your focus keyword and it will give you instant feedback if your blog post or page has good SEO or not and tips to improve it. Good SEO means your post gets greater visibility when people search that topic on search engines like Google and Bing.
2. Security - Wordfence Plugin
Wordpress itself doesn't include comprehensive security for your website, so installing a firewall plugin such as Wordfence is essential. Wordfence also tells you about attempted logins to your website and can also scan your website for viruses and malware. With so many features it's not hard to figure out why it has an almost 5 star rating and over 16 million downloads.
3. Website Backup - UpdraftPlus Backups
Losing all your work on your website isn't something you'll ever want to face. So to ensure you're never left in the dark with nothing to show of your website I use Updraftplus Backups to back up all the data from my websites regularly. I connect a Dropbox account to updraft plus so the files are saved to an external storage area.
4. Custom CSS, Site Statistics, Image Gallery - Jetpack
Jetpack has a lot of different features, most of which I disable as it massively slow down websites. The few features I do use are invaluable and convenient. Depending on the website, I usually enable features such as custom css, custom content types, publicize, galleries and site stats. Site stats is a quick and easy way to see on your WordPress dashboard how many visitors you have each day, what posts they clicked on and what search engine or referring website they used to find your website - very invaluable information.
5. Website Speed - WP Super Cache
Your website speed is crucial to a great user experience - no-one likes a slow website. WP Super Cache will help cache your website pages so when visitors click on a page it will load much more quickly.
6. Website Speed for Images - WP Smush
This invaluable plugin WP Smush "smushes" your photo images down to a smaller size without compromising on quality. This results in a much faster page loading time so that visitors have a better experience using your website. When uploading images to your website, make sure they are well under 1MB otherwise WP Smush can't reduce the file size.
7. Social Media Sharing- Profitquery
With so many social media sharing plugins to choose from, and different paid and unpaid options it's hard to find one that looks good and doesn't massively slow down your website. The social media sharing plugin I've settled on after trying what seems like dozens is by Profitquery, called 24 of the Best Free Marketing Tools.
There are many other plugins that are fantastic for various things, but you may or may not need them depending on what kind of website you have.