Free and Essential WordPress Plugins for 2012

Essential WordPress Plugins

With a growing list of over 20,000 plugins, sometimes it’s a little tricky figuring out which ones to use! This is a quick overview of the 12 essential WordPress plugins that every WordPress Blog should have. The good news is (at the time of writing this) they are all completely free. The essential WordPress plugins below relate to enhancing WordPress functionality, security, SEO, and social marketing.

#1 – Secure-WP

Security should always be your first concern when anything is reachable publicly on the internet – that is why I rank Secure-WP as one of the essential WordPress plugins out there. Don’t get me wrong – WordPress does a great job natively securing your Blog, ensuring you keep the version updated. However, Secure-WP bolsters that security further by removing oodles of information that hackers could use and removing some sensitive material from user accounts while preserving this information in the administrator’s account. Good stuff!

WordPress Plugins


#2 – Spam Free WordPress

Spam is a HUGE problem with WordPress blogs, making an anti-spam plugin one of the essential WordPress plugins. I use Spam Free WordPress, which seems to be doing quite well. Throughout 6 months, it has blocked over 8,000 spam comments, a number that seems to grow exponentially. Now imagine having to go through 40-50 spam comments per day! One of the key reasons we use plugins is to save time, and Spam Free WordPress certainly accomplishes this!

Essential WordPress Plugins #3 – W3 Total Cache

After security and spam are taken care of, site speed is the next thing that comes to mind. No one will wait around 30 seconds for your web page to load, so site speed is critical. I’ll now mention a couple of essential WordPress plugins that help supercharge your website.

The first is W3 Total Cache. This plugin is massively popular, downloaded almost 1.2 million times! It helps speed up your site by improving server performance, caching every aspect of your website, reducing download times, and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration. In short, it makes your WordPress Blog faster!

#4 – WP-Optimize

WordPress is database-driven. The more efficient the database is, the quicker pages can be accessed from the database, and the quicker your site loads to visitors. However, a WordPress database can become polluted with needless information (such as deleted content, spam comments, old page revisions, etc.). This increases the database’s overall size and access times to that database. The result is that your pages take longer to open. WP-Optimize cleans up your database automatically and keeps it streamlined by removing needless information continuously.

#5 – WP Database Backup

Regarding essential WordPress plugins, backing up your data is right up there. It’s something we all leave until it’s too late and then wish we hadn’t. WP Database Backup makes it simple to back up the core. The key thing here is that you can easily backup your site with WP DB – and, if need be, can hire a freelancer to restore your areas; I would imagine who would charge in the region of $25-50 – a lot less of a headache than rebuilding your site from scratch!WordPress tables.

The one downside to this plugin is that it’s a little tricky to restore if something does happen to your site. There are alternative plugins out there that are more user-friendly, such as Backup Buddy, but this is unfortunately not a free plugin; it is priced at $75 for 2 WordPress sites.

#6 – Broken Link Checker

There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking on a link and getting the “page not found” error. While this is frustrating for the visitor, it also generally pushes that visitor (and potential client) away from your website. The Broken Link Checker can monitor links in your posts, pages, comments, blogroll, and custom fields and reports broken links to you through your WordPress dashboard or email.

Essential WordPress Plugins #7 – Google XML Sitemaps

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of SEO-related plugins. Only a handful of these I would consider essential WordPress plugins. The first is Google XML Sitemaps. A sitemap is a road map of your website, outlining all the individual pages and how they link together – their structure. Google and other major search engines use such sitemaps to crawl and index your site more efficiently. Google XML Sitemaps automatically creates a sitemap and keeps it updated as you add new content. It also notifies all major search engines every time you create and post new content.

#8 – All in One SEO Pack

All in One SEO is the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress blogs. It helps you optimize pages and posts by automatically generating meta tags and helpings you optimize web page titles. The great thing about the All in One SEO Pack is that it is fully functional and requires minimal configuration, making it great for those new to WordPress and SEO.

#9 – Ultimate Follow Me

Perhaps my “favorite” of the essential WordPress plugins listed here. Ultimate Follow Me is a WordPress sidebar widget that links to your Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and other Social media platforms. It also includes Google +1, generally viewed as a prominent way to increase your search engine rankings.

I have demoed quite a few of these Social marketing plugins. While they all do the same thing, Ultimate Follow Me generally presents the social media icons a little “prettier.” There are various sizes to choose from, and look great in the sidebar – your visitors are sure not to miss them!

#10 – Shareaholic

Another of the essential WordPress plugins I can’t do without! The plugin automatically creates a gorgeous little social marketing bar at the bottom of your posts. People can like your post on Facebook, Tweet it to their Twitter account, or share it on many social bookmarking websites.

At the time of writing this, Shareaholic supports 85 sites! It also comes in 3 flavors: classic bookmarks, sexy bookmarks, and sassy. Once you have decided which social sites to use, Shareaholic automatically posts the links to the bottom of every page or post – although you can override the plugin on a per-page basis, so it doesn’t show.

#11 – Google Analytics Dashboard

The Google Analytics Dashboard tracks visitors to your pages from within your WordPress dashboard, so there is no need to log in to your Google Analytics account! You can also embed parts of the analytics directly into posts or as part of your theme. One caveat to this plugin is that it does not display the full information you will get from your Google Analytics account. It does give you the basic information you need to see who’s visiting what, which is mostly what I look for in my Analytics account anyway.

#12 – Page Links To

Personally, this is one of the essential WordPress plugins I use. I use it primarily for the content I use on the front page. The front page descriptions of Blogs generally take the first 200 characters or so of the actual article page and display them as the advertising wordage.

The problem is, sometimes, I don’t want to use the first 200 characters of my articles as the wordage that displays on my front page relating to that article. So what do I do? I create an additional page with the words I want to use and use the Page Links To plugin to redirect that page to the actual post.


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.