Over the years, I have done countless installations of Wordpress on both my own websites and for other peoples domains. During this time, I have come to rely on an essential core of 6 free WordPress plugins which I have come to strongly feel every website should have by default.

You can download them all from the WordPress plugin directory, or alternatively search for them through the “plugins” tab on your WordPress-installed website.

Yoast

Everyone who has ever installed a WordPress site will have heard of this one. Yoast is probably one of the biggest exports from the Netherlands along with flower bulbs and wooden clogs.

Their SEO plugin is designed to optimize your WordPress posts and pages so you can rank higher in search results. First you can specify which word or phrase you want to rank for and then the plugin analyzes your post or page telling you what areas you need to improve upon to have a chance of hitting that ranking.

There is both a free and paid version of the plugin. The free one will probably suffice for many people but if you can afford it, the paid one is well worth the cash. You can add extra ranking keywords, set up URL redirects, set social media previews, and much more.

Login Lockdown

The one glaring weakness for WordPress is that everybody knows where the login page is to access the backend of the site. Technically you can change that login URL but sometimes doing that just isn’t possible for some people. Either through lack of knowledge or lack of confidence (or both).

If you count yourself amongst these people, then at the very least you need something like Login Lockdown. This is a plugin which monitors false login attempts. If a certain number of false login attempts are made (you can specify how many) from the same IP address, then that IP address is banned for the amount of time you specify. The default blocked time is 60 minutes.

This stops brute force attacks where multiple combinations are tested to figure out your password. If a person is locked out for say an hour after say three wrong attempts, they are going to get discouraged and move on to an easier target.

Jetpack

Jetpack is something which every website should have – period. It is usually for WordPress.com sites but this plugin brings Jetpack’s features to self-hosted WordPress.org websites too.

I could write a whole book on Jetpack as it is so great. So I will try and distill it down to the best parts.

First, there’s site statistics. They are nowhere near as good as Google Analytics but if you want a quick overview of how many site visitors you had yesterday, it’s very useful.

Then there’s downtime monitoring where you will be emailed if your site goes down. This has saved me more times than I can remember. Pages load faster as your images and files are optimized and hosted on Jetpack’s servers.

Switch on a mobile theme for your site just by toggling a switch on and off. Add social sharing buttons to posts as well as automatically sending new posts to your social media networks.

Jetpack also revamps the comments section on a post, enabling gravatars, comment likes and subscription options for comments and new posts by email.

Finally, Jetpack has an amazing backup service called VaultPress. You need to backup your website in case of either a hacking attack or if you make a blunder in the code. With backup plans starting at only $3.50 per month, there’s no excuse not to do it.

PageBuilder

I don’t fool myself. I am not a code genius. Never have been and never will be, despite my best efforts. But I would still like to have a nice looking site which doesn’t look like something from Yahoo Geocities in 1998.

PageBuilder is a plugin which gives you the tools to place things exactly where you want them on the page and style them the way you want. First you add a row and in that row, you add widgets. You decide how much of the row the widget will occupy then choose from one of the many widgets.

Using PageBuilder, I was able to make a new simple but effective frontpage for my website.

Revision Control

It makes me cringe when I am in clients WordPress websites and I see posts with twenty or thirty different versions of the same post. This happens when the person writing the post clicks the “save” button and WordPress duly saves a new version in case you want to roll back to it later.

But those revisions are taking up space on the server, and once the post is published, you don’t need those revisions anymore. That is why I urge all my clients to install Revision Control.

The version I am using is actually out-of-date and discontinued. So I need to find a new one. But this one works very well and can be used until you find a better one. You can tell WordPress to restrict the number of revisions it saves or tell it to ditch all revisions altogether.

Smush

One of the ways for you to lose your high ranking in search engines is for your site to be extremely slow. As well as having a SSL padlock, Google also factors in site speed to decide which sites get a search boost and which ones get demoted to the swamp.

Smush is an excellent plugin which automatically begins to compress the size of your site images the moment you upload them to WordPress.

You can enable lazy loading so images are not loaded until the visitor scrolls down the page. Attachments can also be “smushed” and if you use Amazon S3 for your images, Smush supports that too.

Some of the features are only available on the paid pro plan but the free plan is good enough for most users.