Starting a WordPress Blog on a Budget
If you are thinking about becoming an online solopreneur and starting your own blog with WordPress, there are lots of things to consider and learn. There are countless tutorials out there that tell you how to set up your WordPress account. But what happens once you’ve got your account all set up? You most likely need to add some extra functionality. The way to do this is to find, install and activate the right WordPress plugins. That’s where the problems might start…
Website Functionality Determines Plugins
Which of the free WordPress plugins are working well and which paid plugins might be worth trying? That’s the kind of information that I was looking for and couldn’t find. It took a long time of trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
For all you out there, who are still looking for the perfect WordPress plugins for your blog, I hear you! It can be so frustrating! Especially if you can’t afford to invest upfront and need to find free WordPress plugins that do the job. I hope I can save your time and sanity by listing the free WordPress plugins that I found most helpful so far.
Obviously, the functionality you want from your website determines which plugins you need. This is why you need a plan first. If you don’t know what functionality you want from your website, it’s gonna be hard to figure out which plugins you need. There are also some general ones, like spam protection, that I think are a great choice for every website, no matter what you do. In my case, I basically wanted a blog with a newsletter integration and a little online shop. If that sounds like something you’d like to have as well, then I’m sure you’ll find my list of plugins helpful.
List of my Favourite FREE WordPress Plugins
Just for your information and because it can be important when it comes to compatibility – At the time of writing this post, I’m using WordPress 4.9.1. and the Tuulikki theme from Creative Market. (As I mentioned before, I’m using affiliate links to products or services I love and these were ones. Not sure what that means? Click here, to learn more.) So let’s dive right into it!
As the name suggests – this plugin helps you fight spam. Always a good thing! More specifically, this plugin checks your comments and contact form submissions and blocks spam so you don’t have to deal with it. Sweet!
Never too soon to think about backing up all your content. Just think about how much time and effort goes into writing and maintaining a blog! You wouldn’t want to risk that, right?! So better be safe than sorry and start backing up your page from day one! This plugin is free, but also has a paid version that offers better support.
This free WordPress plugin enables you to view key Google Analytics statistics in your WordPress install. Lets you track sessions, page views, organic searches, bounce rate, traffic channels, social networks, traffic mediums and more in real time. Might be a little frustrating in the beginning when the numbers are really low… Nevertheless, might help you to improve your content and help you to figure out where your visitors are coming from.
Remember Murphy’s law? Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Believe me. Someday, you’ll have someone click on a broken link to your page and that someone will most likely be quite disappointed by the standard 404 – page not found message. With this free WordPress plugin, you can customise your own 404 page and maybe create something a little less frustrating and annoying.
*Update: Even though I liked the way you can customise your 404 page with the help of this plugin – I’m now using the free Redirection plugin to redirect 404 errors to my homepage. I guess it comes down to your personal preferences what you choose to do here.
Boy, did I try many recipe plugins! None of them was working for me the way I wanted them to work. This plugin was the best free WordPress plugin, that I could find that made the recipes look pretty enough, is easy to use and has some great built-in functionality. If you are just starting out, this is probably all you need! It’s SEO friendly as well. For an example of what a recipe looks like, scroll to the bottom of this page.
If you are thinking about starting an email list and writing newsletters to this list – MailChimp is a good choice when it comes to email marketing. It’s free as long as you send less than 12,000 emails per month and have no more than 2,000 total subscribers. Anywho, this plugin lets you create user-friendly sign-up forms on your website and adds those new contacts to your MailChimp list(s) when people sign up.
There are several Pinterest plugins out there and I’ve tried a few before I found this one, that works just fine. It lets your readers pin any of your images to Pinterest really easily. With this free WordPress plugin, your Pinterest fame is literally only one click away. See for yourself: Click on the image below and save this post to your Pinterest account! Awesome, thanks! 😉
“Why another anti-spam plugin?”, you might wonder. This one fights unauthorised login attempts as well. Initially, I only had Akismet, but then I got a serious problem with spammers registering as new users. As soon as I installed and activated this plugin, the problem stopped. What I like about this plugin too is, that users are offered a second chance at posting their comment or logging in. In that case, denied requests are presented with a CAPTCHA screen. This prevents users from being blocked inadvertently. I thought about using CAPTCHA straight away to stop spammers, but then I changed my mind because it’s just not great for general user experience. So I like how this is solved with this plugin.
After all, I’m not 100% certain, if I still need Akismet as well, or if it is redundant now, but I leave it activated, just in case…
An easy way to comply with EU Cookie Law (that sounds far better than it is – haha). It informs the reader that this website is using cookies. Simple as that!
A free eCommerce plugin that allows you to sell both, digital and physical goods. If you live in Germany and you have to deal with EU VAT regulations, the WooCommerce Germanized plugin comes in handy. It extends WooCommerce to technically match german legal conditions. I did, however, find, that these two plugins weren’t playing together nicely. At least the free versions seem to have a few bugs. For example, I cannot get them to apply the Small-Enterprise-Regulation AND to enable Virtual VAT at the same time. Which, according to a tax consultant, is exactly what I would want to do. Oh well. As long as you are not from Germany, this should not concern you.
If you decided to use WooCommerce, you will find that it offers a few very useful extensions to optimise your online shop. Like the Product Bundles, which allows you to bundle products together and offer the bundle at a discount. Unfortunately, these extensions aren’t free. At the time of writing this post, the product bundle extension costs 49$ for a single site. Quite a hefty price tag for a beginner, when you don’t know if you are going to sell much through your store. Again, it took me quite a bit of trial and error to find the free WooCommerce Product Bundle plugin, that basically does the same thing for you. At least it seems to work for me. You can see an example of what a bundle looks like here.
The last of the plugins that I’m going to recommend to you, is Yoast SEO. For those of you who are just starting out and don’t know what that is: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Essentially, you want to use SEO to improve your ranking in search engine results. For example, if you write about blogging and someone searches the term “blogging” in Google, you want your page to appear as far atop as possible. There is a lot that goes into these rankings and I’m far from an expert. Anywho, this plugin checks the SEO of your posts and pages and tells you what you can do to improve them. This surely can’t be bad, can it?
That’s my roundup of the most useful free WordPress plugins that I’ve found so far. What do you reckon? Did you find some that you are going to use for your site as well? Pin this post for future reference. Or be a great friend and share it with someone you know is looking for free WordPress plugins. Also, if you are looking for something more specific, let me know in the comments and I’ll try my best to point you in the right direction. Also, if you know a few awesome free WordPress plugins that you think could be really useful for a new blogger, I’d love for you to share them in the comments. Thanks!