Top 25 Best Free WordPress Plugins for Every Website (2021)
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You’ve probably heard the old adage ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch‘. But, as much as I love Heinlein, in the world of WordPress, there actually is!
Without looking too hard, you can find heaps of amazing free WordPress plugins that add all sorts of helpful functionality to your WordPress site. Such plugins can help you to create better content, market your site more effectively, and keep it loading quickly and humming along smoothly… All without you needing to spend a dime.
As an ode to the generous developers behind these plugins — and to help you to find some great free WordPress plugins for your site — we’ve collected what we consider to be the best free WordPress plugins of all time, based on both personal experience and the user reviews/their popularity at WordPress.org.
We’ll divide these plugins into four broad categories. Plugins that are good for:
- creating content of all types (everything from a basic form to eCommerce functionality)
- marketing and SEO
- performance, security, and maintenance
- advanced users who like tinkering.
Whether you’re a casual user or someone who likes playing around with custom fields and post types, you should find some great free options on this list.
Let’s get started…
Whether you want to create a contact form, build more beautiful pages, or add eCommerce functionality to your WordPress site, these plugins can help.
1. Ninja Forms
Every website needs a contact page, and, when it comes to contact forms (or other types of forms), Ninja Forms is one of the best free options you’ll find. This is probably why it’s active on more than a million websites.
It features a beginner-friendly drag-and-drop interface, and AJAX form submission so people can submit a form without a page reload.
And, if you ever feel limited by the (generous) free core version, you can always get extra functionality with Ninja Forms’ huge library of premium extensions.
WPForms is also another great free option for forms — it really just depends on which interface you prefer. I like Ninja Forms’ interface a little bit more, which is why I chose to feature it.
Essentially, it makes web design accessible to anyone.
Even though Elementor only launched in 2016, it’s already grown to the point where it’s active on more than five million websites, and it’s also maintained a 4.8-star rating on more than 5,780 reviews.
Read our Elementor review for more information.
If you want to create an eCommerce store with WordPress, WooCommerce is the way to do it. Heck, if you want to create an eCommerce store period, WooCommerce is the way to do it. According to BuiltWith, this free plugin powers more than 28% of all eCommerce stores, and is even more popular than Shopify.
It’s active on more than five million sites, has a 4.5-star rating on more than 3,700 reviews, and, most importantly, it just plain works.
Check out some examples of WooCommerce stores.
TablePress has one of the most impressive ratings I’ve ever seen for a WordPress plugin:
It has a perfect 5-star rating on more than 4,114 votes at WordPress.org.
And, as someone who has used this plugin quite a bit, I can say it deserves every one of those 5-star reviews.
If you need to display any type of table on your WordPress site, TablePress can handle it.
It gives you a simple, Excel-like interface right in your WordPress dashboard. You can import data from Excel or Google Sheets, use any type of media in your table, and extend it with a huge variety of free add-ons.
5. Envira Gallery
If you have a ton of images that you want to display at once, you need a gallery. WordPress includes basic gallery functionality built into the core, but it’s not very flexible and the end-product looks pretty basic.
6. Smart Slider 3
Like galleries, slider plugins provide you with another helpful way to display media content on your site. And when it comes to free slider plugins, Smart Slider 3 is one of the best you’ll find — which is why it has a 4.9-star rating on more than 930 reviews at WordPress.org.
Smart Slider 3 gives you a beginner-friendly live slide editor, as well as some beautiful templates to get you started. Even in the free version, you’ll feel like you’re using a premium plugin.
Whether you’re marketing by ranking your site in the SERPs or growing an email list, these free plugins can help to move the needle on your marketing efforts.
7. Yoast SEO
This free plugin can handle all of the important aspects of your site’s on-page SEO — from controlling your titles and meta descriptions to creating XML sitemaps — and it can even help you to analyze your content for SEO optimization and readability.
All in all, there’s a reason why Yoast SEO is one of the most popular WordPress plugins in existence.
At some point while you’re running your site, you’re probably going to want to change the URL of a post or page. It happens to all of us.
When that happens, you’ll need a way to redirect traffic from the old post to the new post.
That’s what Redirection does.
It gives you a graphical interface where you can easily manage all of your site’s 301 redirects — which is a lot more user-friendly than trying to dig into your .htaccess file every time you want to add a new redirect.
You can also get creative with your redirects — such as conditionally redirecting someone based on whether or not they’re logged in — and all of this is available for free from a responsive developer who works at Automattic.
9. Pretty Links
If you use affiliate marketing on your WordPress site, you know how ugly affiliate links can be.
Pretty Links lets you change that by cloaking affiliate links using your own domain.
For example, cloaking is why any affiliate links you see here at WinningWP use the format ‘winningwp.com/ref/product_name‘.
If you want, you can even track how many clicks each link receives.
10. Broken Link Checker
As your site ages, it’s invariably going to pick up broken links. By broken links, I mean either internal links or external links that no longer go where they’re supposed to.
Broken Link Checker can help you to automatically catch these links by scanning all of your internal or external links. Then, you can easily update all of the broken links to ensure your visitors have a great experience.
This plugin recently picked up new life thanks to an acquisition by an established developer, WPMU DEV, which means it should be set for continued usefulness in 2021 and beyond.
*While Broken Link Checker is a great plugin, I recommend that you leave it disabled when not in use to avoid any performance hits.
11. Shared Counts
There are a lot of great social media share button plugins, so it’s hard to choose just one. But if I had to recommend one free option, it would be Shared Counts. It’s not the most feature-rich sharing plugin, but it includes all the popular networks and it has one big advantage — performance. It’s the most lightweight free social sharing plugin that I’ve found.
Additionally, while it’s not quite as popular as other plugins, it comes from two established and well-respected WordPress developers — Bill Erickson and Jared Atchison. It also has a near-perfect 4.9-star rating on its 22+ reviews.
If you need access to more social share networks, you can consider a plugin such as AddToAny — the downside is that it won’t be as lightweight from a performance perspective.
12. MC4WP (Mailchimp for WordPress)
To help you to build your Mailchimp list on WordPress, you can use the massively popular MC4WP (Mailchimp for WordPress) plugin. This plugin is active on more than two million sites, has an impressive 4.8-star rating on over 1,300 reviews, and makes it easy to create great-looking opt-in forms for your Mailchimp newsletter.
You can learn how to use this plugin, as well as Mailchimp in general, in our big guide on how to set up a newsletter for your WordPress site.
After you’ve used the above plugins to boost your site’s SEO and social media, you’ll want a way to actually analyze how all of your marketing efforts are doing.
That’s where MonsterInsights comes in. It helps you to not only install the Google Analytics tracking code on your WordPress site, but also to view data from Google Analytics without leaving your WordPress dashboard.
And, if you want, it can even help you to track your visitors’ actions — such as which buttons and links they click the most.
Back-end site management isn’t sexy, but the free plugins in this section may just be the most important on this list. They’ll help you to speed up your site, make it secure, and just generally keep everything humming along.
14. Really Simple SSL
Moving your WordPress site to HTTPS/SSL is a great way to make it more secure for both you and your visitors, and it will also help you to avoid the nasty Not Secure warnings that Google is adding to Chrome for ALL non-HTTPS sites.
With the availability of free SSL certificates, it won’t even cost you a dime — you just need a way to safely migrate your WordPress site to HTTPS.
That’s what Really Simple SSL does. It’s basically a one-click solution to set up redirects, update your old URLs, and handle everything else you need to do to safely migrate your site to HTTPS.
Because of this, Really Simple SSL has quickly amassed a perfect 5-star rating on more than 6,900 votes at WordPress.org, and is already used on more than five million sites.
15. Wordfence Security
Active on more than four million sites, Wordfence is the most popular WordPress security plugin. It can implement most of the important WordPress security hardening in an all-in-one package, including:
- a firewall
- malware scans
- login hardening.
While there is a premium version, the free version is still a great option for most sites, which is why Wordfence has a 4.7-star rating on more than 3,600 reviews.
The main difference between the free version and the paid version is that the free version makes you wait 30 days to update the malware and firewall threat rules, while the paid version gets real-time updates.
It’s absolutely essential that you back up your WordPress site, so, if anything ever goes wrong, you have a working copy just in case.
This free plugin has a 4.8-star rating on more than 4,900 reviews, and is active on more than three million sites.
It lets you manually or automatically back up your site with a single click, and you can even automatically have UpdraftPlus store your backup on cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Amazon S3.
If you ever need to restore your site, UpdraftPlus lets you do it with one click.
There are all kinds of reasons why you may need to move your WordPress site at some point. You may want to:
- move WordPress to a new host
- upload your site from a local development site to your live host
- create your own hosted staging site.
No matter what your reason, the free Duplicator plugin can help. This handy plugin exports your entire WordPress site as two simple files. To move your site, all you need to do is upload those files to the new location, run the automated installer, and call it a day.
That ease of use is why Duplicator has a 4.9-star rating on more than 3,177 reviews at WordPress.org.
Note — I think the free version of Duplicator is great for migrating small WordPress sites. But for migrating very large WordPress sites, I think Migrate Guru is a better free option.
- minification — it removes unnecessary characters from your site’s code (such as white space)
- concatenation — it combines multiple separate files into one.
19. Smush Image Compression and Optimization
Smush is another free plugin that can improve your site’s performance — this time, by automatically compressing and resizing the images you upload to your WordPress site.
Smush uses lossless compression, which means your images won’t lose any quality — they’ll just have a smaller file size!
It lets you optimize unlimited images for free (with a 5 MB file size max per image), and is super easy to use — which is why it has a 4.8-star rating on more than 5,500 reviews, and is active on more than a million sites.
20. Login Lockdown
Beyond using a strong username/password combo, one of the best ways to secure your login page from brute force attacks is by limiting the number of attempts a user can make.
This is why if you enter the wrong information when logging into your online banking, you’ll usually get locked out after three incorrect attempts.
Login Lockdown lets you add that same functionality to your WordPress site — and it even lets you control the exact criteria for how many attempts a user can make and how long they get locked out for.
21. Two Factor Authentication
The free Two Factor Authentication plugin lets you lock down your login page even more by adding two-factor authentication via the well-vetted TOTP + HOTP protocols, which lets you use authenticator apps such as Google Authenticator, Authy, and other apps that support these protocols.
It’s free for unlimited users, and it’s also really easy to implement.
For absolute peace of mind when it comes to brute force attacks, this is a great option.
22. Enable Media Replace
Enable Media Replace solves one problem really well:
It lets you replace any file in your WordPress Media Library by uploading a new file in its place. No more need to go through the annoying process of deleting a file and then making sure you upload a file with the exact same name.
Overall, a simple plugin…but one that’s really handy for managing your site and updating old images.
23. Akismet Anti-Spam
Because of its popularity, an unfortunate side effect of WordPress is that its sites attract a lot of comment spam.
Akismet Anti-Spam helps you to eradicate this by automatically screening all of your incoming comments for spam.
It does a great job, which is why it has a 4.7-star rating on more than 900 reviews. It’s also developed by Automattic, so you can trust its quality and longevity.
24. Cookie Notice & Compliance for GDPR / CCPA
Cookie Notice & Compliance for GDPR / CCPA helps with “security” of a different kind — the “security” of complying with important laws and regulations. Specifically, privacy regulations such as Europe’s GDPR and California’s CCPA.
This free plugin helps you add a cookie consent notice, as well as features to control cookie usage on your site based on users’ preferences.
Because it solves such an important pain point (legal compliance), it’s quickly become active on over a million sites with a near-perfect 4.9-star rating on more than 2,900 reviews.
25. Yoast Duplicate Post
Yoast Duplicate Post is a super handy plugin for working with existing content on your site. It does what the name says — it lets you duplicate any post, page, or custom post type with a single click.
It also includes a neat “merge” feature that’s great for updating content. You can clone a post, update the content in the cloned version, and then automatically overwrite the live version when you’re ready to go live.
That usefulness explains why it’s active on over three million sites with a 4.8-star rating on over 480 reviews.
If adding code snippets and custom post types is your idea of a fun Saturday evening (or if you’re just an advanced user), these plugins will make your life easier without costing a penny.
26. Advanced Custom Fields
You can use these custom fields for… Well, pretty much everything! That’s why this plugin is massively popular with developers, and has a 4.9-star rating on more than 1,100 reviews at WordPress.org.
If you’ve ever felt limited by the basic WordPress Editor, you can use Advanced Custom Fields to create a more customized editor with fields that make your life easier and improve your productivity.
You will need to be a little tech-savvy to benefit from the plugin, but you definitely don’t need to be a developer to use it. I’m not, and I still love it!
27. Code Snippets
If you like to tinker with your WordPress site, you probably already have an intimate relationship with your theme’s functions.php file.
Code Snippets greatly simplifies using functions.php code snippets in two ways:
- It lets you add each code snippet separately using a custom title. You can also activate/deactivate individual snippets as needed, making it a lot easier to stay organized.
- Your code snippets will stay with your site even if you switch themes.
Those benefits are why it has a 4.7-star rating at WordPress.org and is active on 400,000+ sites.
28. Head, Footer and Post Injections
Head, Footer and Post Injections operates on a similar principle to Code Snippets — only instead of helping you to add code to your functions.php file, it helps you to add code snippets to your:
- post content.
Makes sense given the name, right?
This functionality actually opens up a lot of benefits. You can:
- inject ads or other content above or below your post content.
The plugin even lets you conditionally inject code depending on whether a visitor is on a desktop or mobile device.
All of those features explain why Head, Footer and Post Injections rocks a perfect 5-star rating on more than 600 reviews at WordPress.org and is active on 300,000+ sites.
Which Are Your Favorite Free WordPress Plugins?
And there you have it! Based on personal experience, as well as the many reviewers at WordPress.org, these are 28 of the most helpful and best free WordPress plugins.
Used/using any of these? Any we’ve missed? Thoughts?
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