If you just started your first WordPress website, you’re probably feeling anxious. Confused by what comes next. There are so many buttons inside your WordPress dashboard that it’s hard to understand what you need to press, but before you start changing stuff inside your panel, there is one additional thing that you need to settle: to install a couple WordPress plugins.
Plugins, as you probably know, add additional customization settings inside your website. They are the ones that take your site to the next level.
There are currently 56,357 plugins inside WordPress.org. Not to mention the premium plugins available for download and purchase from other websites.
If you’re a newbie, it’s quite normal to be lost in the sea of plugins and modification.
In this post, I’m going to list the essential FREE WordPress plugins for beginners and also show you how to configure them.
So don’t worry, you’re in good hands.
Let’s start adding plugins one by one, alphabetically:
- What does this plugin actually do: When installed, Akismet will check the comments submitted on your site and block the ones that are spammy.
- Why you need it: Google will penalize your site if it has spammy comments. Also, it’s way better to stop and erase spammy comments automatically that deleting them one by one.
How to Configure Akismet?
Access your WordPress dashboard, install the free plugin from the Plugin section. Activate the plugin:
A new message will appear that will prompt you to set up an account:
Click on Get your API:
Create an account:
You can start with the free plan. Actually, I don’t think you will need the paid one:
On this screen things seem a bit scary. Why there is a price here? Don’t worry, simply move the cursor to the left:
You will get the price 0 and you can continue:
Press activate on the site:
Enable the GDPR regulations and save the changes.
You’re all set with Akismet.
GDPR Cookies Plugin
- What does this plugin actually do: This plugin will allow you to add a simple and cool-looking notice on your site about the use of the cookies.
- Why you need it: GDPR was implementation on 25 May 2018. This is basically a law that obliges you, the site owner, to explain to the people visiting your site how you’re collecting the data of your visitors, where you’re storing the data, and what you plan to do with the data.
How to Configure GDPR Cookie Consent?
I’m going to show you how to configure the GDPR Cookie Consent by WebToffee.
So, once you install the plugin from the plugin section:
Go to the newly appeared menu inside your dashboard. The General tab will allow you to configure the pop-up your visitors will see.
The most important part is adding a link to your privacy page. People need to read how you’re going to collect their data:
Once you’re find with all the settings, you can see how the message will appear on your site:
I’ve made mine to be a pop-up box so that people can’t avoid it.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP)
- What does this plugin actually do: GADWP implements a dashboard that will show you the daily visitors of your website.
- Why you need it: It’s always nice to see how many people are visiting your site. You can check what people are reading on your site, how much time they spend reading and how they end up on your site. All this data is helping you improve the content.
How to Configure GADWP?
First, you need a free Google Analytics account.
It’s super easy, simply, go to to the main site of Google Analytics and create an account with your existing Gmail: LINK.
Access the account and click on Admin > Create account:
Add name, category, obviously you will need to add the domain name and click get Tracking code:
Once this is done, get back to your website, install the plugin I mentioned above, click on Settings once it’s installed.
Press the Authorize Plugin button:
Get access code:
Access your gmail account:
Allow the permissions:
Copy the code you will see here:
Paste the code and save:
If you have more than one property make sure to select the correct one:
Once you get back to your main dashboard you will see the following box that will show the people visiting your website:
Now there are 0 people visiting because it’s a new test site.
Loginizer Login Plugin
- What does this plugin actually do: This plugin, Loginizer, will prevent people from accessing the admin area of your site by blocking logins for a specific IP after it reaches maximum retries allowed.
- Why you need it: Online security is something serious. You should make sure to use a
strongpassword (capital letters, numbers, long pass) if you don’t wish your site to be hacked.
How to configure Loginizer?
Loginizer is usually suggested when you’re installing your WordPress website for the first time. Major hosting companies add in by default.
If for some reason you don’t have it, simply go to your plugins section and type Loginizer. Install it:
The plugin don’t actually need much configuration.
Once you have the plugin, and if someone tries to access your admin section by guessing the password, he will be locked for a certain period of time.
If you want to add additional settings, go to Loginizer security > Brute Force:
You can block IP’s and also modify the rules on how to block people from trying to access your site.
Shortlinks by Pretty Links – Best WordPress Link Tracking Plugin
- What does this plugin actually do: With the help of this plugin you can track how your links are performing and also easily update old links with new ones.
- Why you need it: If you’re an affiliate marketer, and you want to make money through affiliate sales, this will involve adding links to your posts and pages. However, a lot of times these links are changed, updated, which will mean that you will need to go through all of your links and update them. This is cost you a lot of time. That’s why this tool is really handy and it’s important to have it in the beginning.
How to configure Pretty Links?
Simple, install and activate the plugin by searching using the above mentioned name.
Once the plugin is active, go to Add New Link:
Few things to mention here:
- Redirection: Usually it should be 301.
- Target URL: The full URL of the link you want to open. When people click below.
- Pretty link: This is the pretty link. Basically this is your tracking link.
- Title: This field is for you.
- Notes: This field is also for you. So you can remember what link you added.
Once you click save you will see the following screen.
You need to use the link on the far right inside your posts.
- What does this plugin actually do: Schema WordPress plugin will enhance your posts in the search results by including structured data appropriate to your content, your site can enhance its search results and presentation.
- Why you need it: You need it because better search results mean more traffic. More traffic means more potential buyers for your product.
How to configure Schema?
Install the plugin from inside your dashboard:
Go to the settings of the plugin once the installation is complete. There is a button that will lead you through the steps:
Click let’s go:
Add the type of your site:
Next, are you a person or organization:
Add your social media profiles:
Add your about page and contact us page:
Finally, you can configure your schema types. Personally, I don’t think it’s needed.
This is basically it. You don’t much additional settings.
Smush Image Compression and Optimization
- What does this plugin actually do: It optimizes your images by reducing the size but not the quality: LINK.
- Why you need it: Lower images in size means a faster website. A faster website means better user experience for the people visiting, thus more potential revenue.
How to configure WPsmush?
I’m calling it WPsmush because that was the old name of the plugin.
So, first you need to install the plugin obviously:
Second, to go to the Smush panel and simply set some additional settings if needed.
By default, your images will be smushed on upload. Meaning, you don’t need to do anything in particular.
- What does this plugin actually do: This plugin makes your website faster by caching information in the browser of the visitor.
- Why you need it: Again, it’s about speed. This plugin will make your website run faster and smoother.
Quick note: This plugin is available only if you use SiteGround for hosting.
How to configure SG Optimizer?
Basically, the plugin is pre-installed if
Access the settings panel and make sure all cached settings are enabled:
Next, make sure that your site us running only on HTTPS.
That’s basically it.
If for some reason you’re not using SiteGround for hosting, you might check the plugins W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.
- What does this plugin actually do: It enables you to add slick contact forms to your WordPress website: LINK.
- Why you need it: Having a site is all about communication. You communicate through your articles and the content you put on the site. Still, you will want people to get in touch. That’s why it’s crucial to add a contact form to your site.
The plugin WPforms is the best solution for this. It’s super easy to use and it looks amazing.
So, to start, install the plugin:
Once the installation is complete, you will see this screen. You don’t need to watch the video, simply click proceed:
Add name to your form and choose Blank Form:
Here the process is fun. Drag the fields you want on the right side:
Once you click on a field you can additionally configure it:
The notification tab is basically showing you what you will receive as information on your email address. The Conformation one is what your visitors will see. Save and click Embed:
You will get a pop-up screen with a shortcode. Copy the code and go to create a new page or update existing one:
Once you add the code and save the page you will see this on the actual page:
Pretty neat, right?
- What does this plugin actually do: There is no point of having a website without traffic. Yoast SEO is the best plugin for making your content more likable by the search engines.
- Why you need it:
Easy,because you need traffic towards your site.
How to configure Yoast SEO?
After you’ve installed the plugin, you can start a quick and handy wizard that will walk you through the process:
Click the button and let’s do it:
Select whether you want your site indexed now or later:
Is this going to be a personal blog or something else:
Are you a company or a person:
Add your social media profiles:
Do you want to add posts and pages to the search engines (usually yes):
How many authors your site will have:
Connect Yoast with your Google account. It’s similar to what we did above with the Google dashboard plugin:
What kind of separator you want between your post title and your site name:
The next screen you will be asked to subscribe to the newsletter send by team Yoast:
The next page is basically a place to see what services the guys offer:
You’re all set:
Still, there is one additional thing that you need to know when you add posts from now on.
Go to add a new post:
The important thing about SEO optimization is to make your content likable by Google and the other search engines.
So, start by choosing a keyword. Add it inside your title and also in the URL. Something like this:
Next, make sure to add the actual keyword inside the appropriate box and also meta description:
The coolest thing about Yoast is that will show you what you can optimize to make your blog post perfect:
One note here: Don’t always strive for the green light. Remember that you’re writing for the visitor, not for the search engines.
Check more in my post about SEO for beginners.
Not so hard, right.
These plugins are all free and are all needed in order your site to run smooth, and to have the most common functionalities.
Of course, along the way and depending on your needs, you will add extra plugins but these are the most common for people just starting.
What plugins you add when you start a WordPress site: Make sure to add your opinion below: