WordPress out of the box is probably more than enough to get you started—depending on what you’re hoping to accomplish—but when it comes time to start extending WordPress’ native capabilities with plugins, there’s no doubt a ton of options to choose from.
Unless you’re looking to add on some very particular functionality, here are some of the best free plugins to get started with on your new WordPress website in the areas of caching, SEO, social sharing, contact forms, and security.
W3 Total Cache
Site speed is a huge deal for websites nowadays—a sluggish website won’t get visitors to stick around for long. One of the simplest ways to help boost speed and performance is through the use of a caching plugin. W3 Total Cache is my plugin of choice for this purpose: it increases site performance (up to at least 10x when fully configured) and helps to drastically reduce page load time. Download W3 Total Cache here.
WordPress is natively a pretty good choice for SEO without the use of any plugins, but Yoast SEO will definitely give you a little bit of extra control and a nice little boost. This plugin gives you the option of adding your own custom meta titles and descriptions for every post and page, and you’ll be able to set a focus keyword f0r each. Yoast SEO’s page analysis tool will check to see if your content is on target for your chosen keyword, whether or not your post content is long enough, if you’re missing image alt tags, and more. Download Yoast SEO here.
Jetpack is one of my favorite free plugins: it adds in all of the great wordpress.com functionality to your self hosted WordPress site. Some of the best features include the social sharing options, related posts functionality, boosted image performance, and built in stats. Download Jetpack here.
Contact Form 7
On most sites, you’ll undoubtedly want a contact form of sorts, and Contact Form 7 is just about the best free, super extendable, well-documented option there is. Contact Form 7 forms are totally customizable, you’ll be able to have multiple contact forms throughout your site, and features include Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering, and more. Download Contact Form 7 here.
One of the biggest concerns site owners should have is security, and luckily, there’s plenty of security plugins these days that can give your site and extra layer of protection. My favorite for this is Wordfence which features things like alerting you if your site has been compromised so you can quickly take action, a live traffic view to see hack attempts on your site in real time, login security like enforcing strong passwords and locking out brute force hacks, and security scanning. Download Wordfence here.