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10 Free Plugins to Enhance Your WordPress Site

Last month I proclaimed my love for WordPress and wrote about 16 tools for every WordPress designer including themes, plugins, tips, tricks and other resources. Today, I decided to focus on WordPress plugins. Below are 10 FREE plugins that will enhance your WordPress site. Enjoy!

1. Custom Sidebars

Custom Sidebars - 10 Free Plugins to Enhance Your WordPress Site
The Custom Sidebars plugin allows you to create custom sidebars in any widgetized area available on your WordPress site. Custom Sidebars also makes it possible to add custom sidebars to not just pages and posts, but to categories, post-types, archives (date, author, tags) and search results.

2. WooCommerce

WooCommerce Plugin - 10 Free Plugins to Enhance Your WordPress Site
The WooCommerce plugin by WooThemes is a free e-commerce toolkit for your WordPress site. Easily create products to sell, including downloadable products, and easily keep track of your inventory, shipping rates, marketing, and payments. WooThemes has many theme options available to make your online business a reality with WooCommerce.

3. WordPress SEO by Yoast

WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin - 10 Free Plugins to Enhance Your WordPress Site
The WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin is the most complete SEO plugin available for Word Press and incorporates many helpful features such as snippet previews, page analysis, image titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemaps and more, to easily optimize your content for Google and major search engines.

4. ShareThis

ShareThis Plugin - 10 Free Plugins to Enhance Your WordPress Site
The ShareThis plugin accesses over 120 social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more, to provide a quick and easy sharing solution to engage your audience and increase traffic to your WordPress site. The ShareThis widget is easily customizable to fit your needs and theme layout.

5. Akismet

Akismet Plugin - 10 Free Plugins to Enhance Your WordPress Site
The Akismet plugin was created by Automattic (creators of WordPress) which checks your comments against the Akisment web service to filter out your comment and track-back spam for you. The Akisment plugin is free for personal use.

6. Lightbox Plus

Lightbox Plus Plugin - 10 Free Plugins to Enhance Your WordPress Site
The Lightbox Plus plugin for WordPress allows users to view larger versions of images on your site without having to leave the page. Lightbox Plus can add a lightbox to WordPress galleries, display slideshows, videos, forms and external content.

7. Jetpack

Jetpack Plugin - 10 Free Plugins to Enhance Your WordPress Site
The Jetpack plugin uses the cloud power of WordPress.com to supercharge your self-hosted WordPress site. Here are a few of my favorite features:

  • Publicize: Connect your WordPress site to your social profiles and your new posts will automatically be shared.
  • Jetpack Comments: Allows users to post comments as a guest or using a WordPress.com, Facebook or Twitter account.
  • Sharing: Displays social media buttons at the bottom of your posts so users can easily share your content.
  • Contact Form: Lets you easily insert a contact form anywhere on your WordPress site.
  • Mobile Theme: Automatically displays a mobile version of your site (using the Twenty Eleven theme) displaying your content in a clean, uncluttered interface that will load quickly on mobile.
  • Enhanced Distribution: Jetpack will automatically share your posts with search engines and other 3rd party services in real time.


8. Google XML Sitemaps

Google XML Sitemaps Plugin - 10 Free Plugins to Enhance Your WordPress Site
The Google XML Sitemaps plugin will generate an XML sitemap which will help major search engines easily index your WordPress site. This sitemap makes it easier to crawl and see the complete structure of your site. The Google XML Sitemaps plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages and notifies Google, Yahoo! And Bing whenever new content is created.

9. Google Analytics

The Google Analytics plugin is very simple; just install the plugin, enter your Web Property ID and your Google Analytics account will automatically connect to your WordPress site.

10. Formidable

The Formidable plugin allows you to easily and quickly create forms using a drag and drop interface. Contact forms can be created from scratch or by using a pre-made template. Forms can easily be customized using CSS and displayed on pages or posts using shortcodes.

BONUS: Since I enjoy creating sites using StudioPress themes which use the Genesis Framework, here are a few of my favorite plugins developed for use on the Genesis Framework:

11. Genesis Connect for WooCommerce

The Genesis Connect for WooCommerce replaces the WooCommerce built-in shop template with a Genesis-ready version. This saves time from having to customize the shop pages yourself and keeps all pages looking consistent with your Genesis child theme.

12. Genesis Responsive Slider

The Genesis Responsive Slider helps you create a simple responsive slider that can display the featured image, along with the title and excerpt from a page or post. The slideshow will automatically adjust for the screen size its being displayed on such as desktops, tablets or smart phones.

13. Simple Social Icons

The Simple Social Icons plugin is a very easy to use and simple, customizable way to display your social media profiles on your WordPress site. Use it to add Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and many other profiles with adjustable colors and sizes.

What are some of your favorite WordPress plugins? What plugins do you have to use on all your WordPress designs?

– Dave

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