The Free Plugins Every WordPress Site Needs to Avoid Disaster
When you’re running a WordPress website, you need to make sure it is technically optimised so that nothing slips through the cracks. This could simply be ensuring that enquiries don’t get lost, or something a lot more serious like preventing your website from getting hacked.
Either way, there are plugins for pretty much every eventuality, and I’ll show you which ones you’ll need.
1. Security Plugin
The first thing you should install is a security plugin, no matter what size your website is. The worst thing that could happen to a website is for it to be hacked, as this prevents your content from being viewed, tarnishes your reputation, and, worst of all, you could lose everything on your site. You need a plugin that will regularly monitor your website and can provide a buffer to attackers.
One plugin I recommend is Wordfence, a widely installed plugin used by more than 1 million people. This constantly monitors your website for people logging in, people attempting to log in, and malicious scans.
2. Contact Form Backup Plugin
If you’re running a website, there’s a good chance you’ve got a contact form on it, especially if you’re running a commercial website. When you install your contact form plugin, you should check whether it keeps a log of every response that comes through. If it does, then great. If it doesn’t, you should check whether there’s an add-on that acts as a database for all the responses.
The most used contact form plugin is Contact Form 7, which has more than 1 million users. However, there isn’t a backup of responses that get received, so I recommend using Flamingo, which stores everything that gets sent through the contact form.
If you happen to lose access to your email account, or your email account isn’t properly connected and you’ve just noticed after 3 months, then you’ll have a backup of every response since the date you installed the plugin.
3. Update Alert Plugin
Another security-based plugin, this one alerts you every time a plugin, theme, or WordPress version goes out of date. This is due to the fact that when an author releases a new update, there could be patches for bugs or vulnerabilities. Until you update, your website is left vulnerable which can be exploited by anyone who scans the website.
The plugin I use is Updater, which can automatically update anything that goes out of date, or will alert you so that it can be done manually. I choose to do it manually so that I can control which plugins get updated as there’s also a chance updating can accidentally break your website.
You might say “wouldn’t it be better to be vulnerable than to have a broken website?” but it’s a lot harder to remove a hack than a glitch. My next plugin devises a solution so you can update without fear.
4. Website Backup Plugin
Let’s say you did get hacked or accidentally broke your website, what would you do then? You can’t access your website because the hacker has taken it offline or the latest WordPress version doesn’t work with a plugin and completely 503’d your website so you can’t log in?
Having a recent backup of your website is the ultimate defence to losing everything as you can restore everything you had when you did that backup. The plugin BackUpWordPress is used by 200,000 people and allows you to schedule a back-up for your files and database instead of using a backup from months ago when you have likely uploaded new content to your site since then.
This plugin can also email you with the backups so that you can access a backup from anywhere, in contrast to the limited accessibility associated with it being saved onto your computer.
5. Activity Tracking Plugin
If you have a lot of users on the website, you may want to track what has been changed on the website, and by who. Luckily, there is a free plugin which does exactly this, called User Activity Log.
This plugin monitors many different types of changes on your website, such as edited posts and pages, updated plugins, themes and WordPress versions, and new users added. You can find the complete list on the plugin’s page. For extra security, there is a Pro version of the plugin which includes .csv exports of the activity logs and password security so that only authorized users can delete the log.
6. Speed Plugin
Alright, the website is now secure, contact form responses are getting saved, and you’ve got a recent backup of the website in case the worst happens. Now we need to think from the position of the people visiting your website. Although the website is safe and secure, people might be leaving your website simply because it loads too slowly.
As the internet gets more advanced, people’s expectations are rising, so they don’t want to visit a website that takes too long to load. There’s no definite amount of seconds users expect a website to load, but a survey showed that 47% of visitors expect a website to load in 2 seconds.
That could mean that 47% of visitors could be abandoning your website because it’s too slow for them. Yet again, there’s a plugin that can fix this issue, called BJ Lazy Load. As images are likely to be the main thing slowing down your website, it turns every single image on your website into a placeholder, and the image is loaded when it is close to being viewed. i.e. an image doesn’t load instantly if it’s right at the bottom of the homepage and the user has just clicked onto the page, but loads when the user is close to scrolling onto it. Additionally, you may want to use Shortpixel Image Optimizer to optimise your images, which can compress JPG, PNG, GIF images and will optimise your images automatically when you upload them to the site.
So that your WordPress site avoids disaster, you need a security plugin, contact form backup plugin, update alert plugin, website backup plugin, and speed plugin. These plugins will ensure that your website is optimised for maximum performance and nothing slips through the cracks.
Which WordPress plugins do you use?