16 Essential Free WordPress Plugins & 5 Themes That Your Website Can’t be Without in 2016

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Best free WordPress plugins of 2016

Plugins (sometimes also known as add-ons or extensions) are vital to any WordPress website or blog to increase its ease-of-use, its flexibility and its level of scope. There are thousands of amazing plugins available, some free and some paid, which will allow both you to do a host of wonderful things with your website. Here we list some of the best free WordPress plugins that we’ve used and believe your website can’t be without in 2016.

1. ‘Akismet’ – Spam Prevention

Best served for people looking to set up a WordPress blog, Akismet is an excellent one-stop guard against all spam comments. This spam would otherwise negatively affect your reputation and SEO ranking if they were allowed to get through. Akismet will show you how many spam comments have been blocked, and allow you to review the comments that may or may not be spam to either approve or delete – https://akismet.com/wordpress/.

Akismet plugin

Akismet anti-spam plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/akismet/

2. ‘W3 Total Cache’ – Performance, Speed and Caching

Caching is vital for any site to ensure that it operates at optimum speed and decreases downtime. W3 Total Cache is one of the best free cache plugins on the market for doing just this; it serves all your visitors with compressed and cached files which reduces the load on your server, therefore increasing website speed – https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/

W3 Total Cache plugin

W3 Total Cache plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/

3. TinyPNG for WordPress – Image Compression

TinyPNG compresses your JPEG and PNG images to the optimum size to ensure that your WordPress site will run faster, while nothing is lost in regards to image quality. The plugin itself is free but you pay on a ‘per image’ basis for the compression service. On average, JPEG images will be compressed by 40-60% and PNG by 50-80%, compression can be done in bulk or ‘on the fly’. The plugin provides some useful options to control your costs but even with hundreds of images the costs are still relatively low and the service in our experience is great compared to others out there. Used in conjunction with a plugin like W3 Total Cache the speed improvements can be impressive  – https://wordpress.org/plugins/tiny-compress-images/


TinyPNG image compression plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/tinypng-for-wp/

4. ‘Yoast SEO’ – On-Page Optimisation

Yoast helps you to optimise your website to rank higher by helping you find and add the right keywords for meta titles and even you content. It’s red, amber, green traffic light system can be a major aid in terms of ensuring your on-page SEO and keyword densities are correct and there are a whole host of site-wide SEO features provided by Yoast that don’t come as standard with WordPress. As SEO is vital to the success of any website, Yoast’s value can’t be overlooked – https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/

5. ‘iThemes Security’ – Security

iThemes Security offers over 30 ways for you to effectively secure and protect your site, by fixing common gaps in your site, halting automated attacks and strengthening user credentials. There is also the option for a premium ‘iThemes Security Pro’ upgrade – https://wordpress.org/plugins/better-wp-security/

iThemes Security

iThemes Security plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/better-wp-security/ 

6. ‘Wordfence’ – Security

Wordfence protects all of your data from potential hackers or unwanted eyes and sits as one of the most downloaded plugins available on WordPress. It cleans out all malware, speeds up your website and also has a premium version available – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordfence/


WordFence security plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordfence/

7. ‘WooCommerce’ – eCommerce

WooCommerce is the go-to eCommerce plugin for WordPress when it comes to making your digital store. It has PayPal integration, produces sales reports, allows for various shipping methods and scalability, and also has a useful inventory management system. Next to Magento, WooCommerce is our favourite eCommerce platform and perfect for smaller retail stores – https://wordpress.org/plugins/woocommerce/


WooCommerce eCommerce plugin for WordPress

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/woocommerce/

8. ‘MailChimp’ – E-mail Capture

A handy plugin which creates a subscribe button for your blog or website, which you can choose to pop-up (you can also choose on which pages it pops up and how often) or have placed on the sidebar which allows customers to subscribe with their emails. This is then stored on your system where you can send out mass newsletters to all customers that have subscribed –https://wordpress.org/plugins/mailchimp-for-wp/


MailChimp plugin for WordPress

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/mailchimp-for-wp/

9. ‘Jetpack’ – Multifunctional

Jetpack is a useful multi-functional plugin, with features such as implementing secure logins, check on user retention and social sharing. However, we must stress that you check what features you actually need, as when all are enabled in can seriously slow down your site – https://wordpress.org/plugins/jetpack/


Jetpack plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/jetpack/screenshots/

10. ‘Google Analytics’ – SEO

Google Analytics is a must-have when it comes to SEO, and at zero cost it’s a no-brainer. Allowing you to see who’s coming to your website, where from, and how long they’re spending per page, it allows you to effectively use this powerful analytics tool to optimise your site even further – https://wordpress.org/plugins/google-analytics-dashboard-for-wp/

Google Analytics

Google Analytics plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/google-analytics-dashboard-for-wp/

11. ‘Contact Form 7′ – Contact Form

Contact Form 7 is the best free plugin for contact forms for your website. It is easy to install, set up and use allowing your customers to get in contact with you easily –https://wordpress.org/plugins/contact-form-7/

Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/contact-form-7/

12. ‘Akeeba Backup’ – Backup

A highly recommended and popular plugin, Akeeba Backup is one of our favourite extensions for the Joomla CMS but it’s also available for WordPress, based on Akeeba’s already established and successful backup software. It only takes one click and completes a full site backup either to your server or to the cloud with services like DropBoxhttps://www.akeebabackup.com/products/akeeba-backup-wordpress.html

Akeeba Backup

Akeeba Backup plugin

Source: https://www.akeebabackup.com/products/akeeba-backup-wordpress.html

13. ‘Envira Gallery’ – Images

WordPress does have a number of tools that allow for image galleries, and your theme may have the code that already accommodates for this, but sometimes these can be basic. EnviraGallery allows for the creation of multiple responsive galleries with an excellent finish – https://wordpress.org/plugins/envira-gallery-lite/

Envira Gallery

Envira Gallery plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/envira-gallery-lite/

14. ‘Buffer’ – Social Media Scheduling

Buffer is an extremely useful plugin that allows you to schedule your social media posts for an entire day, which means all of your social accounts will stay active while you can work elsewhere. In an increasingly social world, this is a great tool that won’t draw you away from other important tasks – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-to-buffer/


Buffer plugin to schedule social media posts

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-to-buffer/

15. ‘Testimonials Widget’ – Widget

Testimonials Widget allows you to display any past testimonials that you have received from clients or customers. This is always a key thing that a potential customer or client looks for, and can make all the difference in securing a potential relationship – https://wordpress.org/plugins/testimonials-widget/

Testimonials Widget

Testimonials Widget

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/testimonials-widget/

16. ‘Shortcodes Ultimate’ – Shortcodes

Shortcodes are incredibly powerful and Shortcodes Ultimate provides you with a mega pack of shortcodes, allowing you a host of new features such as creating tabs, sliders, responsive videos and more. It has over 50 shortcodes which you can easily embed into any post, page or widget, with the option of some premium upgrades. https://wordpress.org/plugins/shortcodes-ultimate/

Shortcodes Ultimate

Shortcodes Ultimate plugin

Source: https://wordpress.org/plugins/shortcodes-ultimate/

5 of our favourite WordPress themes

To complement this list of plugins, here are some of the most popular WordPress themes available. Our favourite probably comes as no surprise as we’ve blogged and wrote several articles about the amazing Divi theme.

1. Divi

A hugely popular theme from Elegant Themes and is notable for its Divi ‘drag and drop’ page builder tool and its appealing visuals. It includes full-width and full-length layouts, large sliders, attractive icons and a responsive design, among many other features – http://www.elegantthemes.com/gallery/divi/

Divi Theme

The amazing Divi theme

Source: http://www.elegantthemes.com/gallery/divi/

2. Shopkeeper

Shopkeeper, as the name may suggest, is a theme for online stores or online businesses. It offers a modern-looking, smooth and elegant website template with a flexible layout and several features that makes it both easier to market your products online, as well as reach a wider audience – http://themeforest.net/item/shopkeeper-responsive-wordpress-theme/9553045?ref=cirvitis

Shopkeeper Theme

Shopkeeper Theme

Source: http://themeforest.net/item/shopkeeper-responsive-wordpress-theme/9553045

3. Kalium

Kalium offers a well-designed and smooth website, perfect for portfolios and blogs. Allowing you to insert eye-catching sliders and custom animations and effects, this theme will leave your viewers wowed with your work – http://themeforest.net/item/kalium-creative-theme-for-professionals/10860525?ref=cirvitis

Kalium Theme

Kalium Theme

Source: http://kaliumtheme.com

4. X – The Theme

The X theme features multiple designs by offering a new concept known as stacks. These are separate designs, rather than separate page layouts, all included within the one theme. You can use these stacks to create a unique design for your website, alongside the usual tools of logos, menus, sidebars and every other customisation option – http://themeforest.net/item/x-the-theme/5871901?ref=cirvitis

X-The Theme

X-The Theme

Source: http://themeforest.net/item/x-the-theme/5871901

5. Porto for WooCommerce

We’ve mentioned Shopkeeper, but Porto is another amazing theme that we’ve had the pleasure of using for both Magento and WooCommerce. The theme comes with a huge range of pre-set layouts, homepage versions, customisation options and other well-rated plugins bundled in. It’s highly recommended for any eCommerce website.


Porto theme

Porto WooCommerce theme



This is just a fraction of the many well-featured and highly adaptable free WordPress plugins and themes available, which we will be covering more extensively in the future. If you need help finding the best theme or plugins for you, or need guidance in installing and using them, please get in contact with us here, or at [email protected] or phone on 0845 017 7661. We would love to hear from you.


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