9 Free WordPress Plugins to Make Your Site Leaner, Meaner, and More Profitable


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The universe of free plugins is one of the most important benefits of WordPress. If there’s some functionality you’re looking for, odds are someone else has already built it!

Some of my favorites include:

Now I’ve been called — and this is true — a bit of a plugin junkie in the past. And there is a dark side to all this delicious free software; installing too many plugins can slow down your site, break some functionality, or even put you at risk for security breaches.

How many is too many? Like everything, it depends on the site.

I have more than 30 plugins installed on Side Hustle Nation, which always gets a gasp when I tell people. 30!?

(I guess when you get that reaction, that’s how you know it’s too many.)

But they all serve a purpose. I’m not just installing extra crap for the sake of installing it.

Here are a few I think you should consider, organized by functional area.

Don’t have a blog yet? Here’s how to start one quickly and affordably.

Email List Building

For many blogs and websites, the primary goal is to get people to subscribe. This opens the doors to “Permission Marketing,” in Seth Godin-speak, and gives you a way to reach your visitors long after they’ve left your site.

I’m always testing new ways to attract email subscribers, but here are a couple free tools that are quick wins to add to your site.

1. SumoMe

SumoMe is a suite of really impressive and helpful free software. Their package includes:

  • List Builder pop-ups – To collect more emails.
  • Scroll Boxes – To collect more emails.
  • Social sharing buttons – To drive more sharing and traffic.
  • Heatmaps – To see what people are clicking on.
  • A “Smart Bar” – A site-wide call-to-action at the top of your pages.
  • The “Welcome Mat” – To make your entire above-the-fold area an opt-in form.

sumome lander

I’m not going to weigh in on the pop-up vs. no pop-up debate. I think we can universally agree on two things:

  1. Yes, they’re annoying.
  2. Yes, they work.

Since installing SumoMe, their little List Builder popup has captured more than 5000 email addresses! The Scroll Box has added another 1700.

I’ve seen no measurable increase in bounce rate or any other indication people are running for the hills after they see the popup. Plus this software is being used on over 250,000 sites so there’s some safety in numbers there as well.

Here’s what it looks like on SHN:

sumome popup example

You can customize the look and feel of the pop-ups and even exclude them from showing up on certain pages.

And here’s what my Scroll Box looks like:

sumome scroll box

It shows up after new visitors scroll almost all the way to the bottom.

(And while they have a free WordPress plugin, their stuff actually works on any site, regardless of what platform you’re using.)

Pro tip: After you install and set it up, test your site in an incognito browser tab both on your computer and on your phone to see how they look.

2. Magic Action Box

The Magic Action box plugin adds a call-to-action to the bottom of your posts. You can make a site-wide offer or if you want to get fancy, a content-upgrade specific to that post.

Here’s what it looks like on SHN:

magic action box

Since installing this free plugin, it’s collected more than 2400 email addresses. Not bad!

I like this one because we tend to top-load our pages with calls-to-action, but if people make it all the way to the bottom of your post, they probably found some value in your writing. That’s the perfect time to ask them to subscribe and the Magic Action box is an easy way to get ‘er done.

Composition

When you’re writing and formatting your posts, there are a couple free plugins that will make your life easier.

3. Tiny MCE Advanced

I discovered this plugin after trying to figure out how to change the font size in a post. Turns out, in the default WordPress setup, it’s not easy to do.

This handy little plugin solves that problem. It adds some new bells and whistles to your composition screen:

with tiny mce advanced

Versus without the plugin:

without tiny mce advanced

For a very meta example, I used the plugin to create the big bold “Tiny MCE Advanced” text you see above.

But Nick, you might ask, why not just use the built-in Heading Tags to increase the font size? Because those tags are used by the search engines to determine what text is most important on the page.

Rule of thumb: Use those H2 and H3 tags for subheadings with keywords that are central to your post, and use Tiny MCE for styling other text.

For example, on my podcast pages, I used to use the Heading 2 tag to make text like “Free PDF Download” big and bold. That was a bad move for SEO since the page had nothing to do with “free PDF download” and everything to do with selling courses on Udemy — for example.

4. Rel NoFollow Checkbox

It’s considered a best practice to “nofollow” outbound affiliate, advertising, or sponsored links. The nofollow attribute tells Google not to pass any SEO juice to the destination page.

However, it’s a pain to toggle to the text editor and update each affiliate link in your post. Instead, try the free Rel NoFollow Checkbox plugin, which — as you might guess from the name — adds a handy little checkbox in your link creation popup:

rel nofollow checkbox

SEO

Even with all the other traffic generation tools at our disposal, it would be silly to ignore the search engines. Here are a couple of my favorite plugins.

5. Yoast SEO

No plugin post would be complete without a mention of Yoast, right?

This bad boy allows you to customize your title and description tags for each page, and make sure Facebook knows which image you want attached to your post when someone shares it.

yoast seo

6. WP Smush

WP Smush isn’t a purely SEO plugin, but it reduces the size of your images, which improves your site’s speed, which helps your SEO.

Oversized images are one of the most common culprits I see of slow sites, and this free tool helps combat them automatically. Each time you upload an image, it gets “smushed” to a smaller size, while still maintaining high quality.

wp smush

Every KB counts!

The images on this page are all smushed. Do they look OK?

Marketing

7. Revive Old Post

If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you’ve probably got a pretty sweet library of content buried deep in your archives. But how’s anybody going to find it?

With the free Revive Old Post plugin of course!

This Little Engine That Could automagically tweets out your oldies-but-goodies at regular intervals (or shares them on FB, LinkedIn, Xing?, or Tumblr). You can tell it what categories to exclude.

revive old post

It’s highly unlikely that your twitter followers have read every word on your site, and this is an easy way to expose your best stuff to new (and new-to-them) readers.

Security

I don’t like to think much about security. And that’s probably the way it should be. It’s kind of like insurance; take the time to set it up and hope you never need it.

8. All in One WP Security

For as awesome as WordPress is, the default set-up does have some security holes. A friend recommended this free plugin as an easy way to plug some of those holes.

I like it because it’s easy to use for non-technical people like me. The plugin walks you step-by-step through some suggested changes to your settings, plus they’ve got a slick little “security speedometer” to let you know how you’re doing.

A previous security plugin I was using had the not-so-awesome habit of locking me out of my own site, especially when trying to work remotely. Not that I play digital nomad very often, but super annoying when I do and can’t login!

9. BackWPUp

Taking regular backups of your site is a must. Thankfully, my host backs up the site daily, but I think a little redundancy is a good thing, just in case.

There are a lot of backup plugins out there, and many just create a backup on your host’s same server. If something were to happen to the server, your backup would probably be toast too.

That’s why I like the BackWPUp option, because you can at least set it to make a copy on a 3rd party cloud server like Dropbox.

Your Turn

What are your must-have plugins? Let me know in the comments below to help build a more valuable resource on this page for all bloggers and site owners.

must-have plugins

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14 thoughts on “9 Free WordPress Plugins to Make Your Site Leaner, Meaner, and More Profitable”

  1. Thanks for this! Love your list and out of it the no follow (it was a pain going in the html and adding it) and WP smush and Tiny MC are some I’m getting right now.

    I have several of the ones you’ve mentioned namely SumoMe, Revive old posts (which is always topping my traffic generation), and of course Yoast are some of the ones I already have.

    Reply
  2. Excellent post! The only plugin on this list I have right now is Sumo Me and it is amazing! I lost my site last week and had to completely start over so I will be installing the WordPress Back Up To Dropbox TODAY! Thanks!

    Reply
  3. I like to use NewStatPress for checking visitors to my sites and here is a lil trick for making your site more secure.

    Add this to your ht.access file replacing the xxx with your ip. It can be annoying if you move around with your laptop and your ip keeps changing but if you don’t its worth doing.

    order deny,allow
    Deny from all
    # whitelist Your Place Name IP address
    allow from xxx.xx.xx.xxx

    Reply
  4. You won’t believe this but i have left this page open on my tablet for two months refreshing it daily because i wanted to keep reminding myself that i needed to install these plugins. it took me two months to finally install them today even though i looked at this page at least twice a day since December. Talk about procrastination I think I just won the life award lol. But thanks for the sharing anyway. It is a great post. Then i have a question do have any good plugins for related posts? And one more any plugins for breaking a 1 post into several next like when sharing a post with several images were you talk a little on one and the person clicks next or previous to see others. Then lastly font suggestions. Do you have any in mind your website has really good fonts can you give us the names? Thanks again for sharing

    Reply
  5. Loved this list. I was already using quite a few of these plug-ins but I was super excited to hear about Tiny MCE. This fixes a problem I regularly struggle with. Activating it now. Can’t wait to play around with colors and sizes to enhance my page’s look. Thanks so much for the information.

    Reply
  6. This is exactly why I personally love WordPress and the internet, because not only does content rule when it comes to building your business from the ground floor up, but it also increases your affiliate earning potential and builds deep relationships with your target audience.

    Reply

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