If you are serious about promoting your writing, book marketing, and building your author platform, you will probably consider a self-hosted WordPress site.
To get the maximum value from all your posts and pages, you need plugins that will help improve site performance, increase your site traffic and, in turn, your book sales.
At the same time, you need to make sure that your WordPress website is secure.
Here is a list of free WordPress plugins for authors and writers that I use on my sites. All of them are ease of use, functional, practical, and have very good support.
How to choose a free WordPress plugin
You spend a lot of time writing blog posts and content, and you want to get as much traffic as you can from social media, Google Search, and other search engines.
What you do not want to do is to waste your valuable writing time with on-site maintenance, performance enhancement, security and backups, and especially social media posting.
For these tasks and many more, the WordPress plugin directory is full of useful and practical solutions that you can easily add to your site through your WordPress dashboard.
However, whenever you consider a free plugin, you should always check the number of downloads, the reviews, and the support forum activity before installing the plugin. The same applies when selecting free WordPress themes.
Another good idea is to set up a sandbox site as a separate part of your WordPress hosting. With it, you can test new plugins and themes before you add them to your live site.
If you use a free WordPress site, there are some popular WordPress plugins available for you.
But my list below is specifically for a new self-hosted site.
1. Akismet Anti-Spam
When you allow comments on your site, you definitely need comment spam protection. Akismet is always the first plugin I install on any new site.
It is installed on over 5 million sites and is the number one security plugin for WordPress. There is a premium version, but the free version offers more than enough protection for almost all bloggers.
Setting up is quick and easy. Once you have installed the plugin from your WordPress dashboard, you need to get your free API key and check a few basic settings.
After that, you will probably never look at it again. But it will be protecting your site day in and day out.
One more setting you can make to counter comment spam is in your WordPress discussion settings.
With these settings, you can moderate every comment and be 100% sure that no spammers get onto your site. But if you do not choose to moderate, Akismet will catch between 95-98%.
I have used it for long enough to know how well it works.
2. Wordfence Security
I always add Wordfence security to every one of my new sites.
It’s a free plugin, and it ensures that your site will be protected from the bad guys 24/7.
With Wordfence enabled, you are protected against most hackers and attempted brute force attacks.
All you need to do is activate the plugin. The default settings are enough to protect your site. But you can tweak them.
With the scan, you can quickly check if everything is in order on your site.
If you get a warning, it is usually relatively easy to find the problem and fix it.
Don’t take any chances with your website security.
Luckily, with Wordfence, it makes sure you don’t.
3. All In One SEO
Whenever I start a blog, All In One SEO is the first plugin I install.
SEO plugins are essential. I know a lot of bloggers use the Yoast SEO plugin, which is a great SEO tool too.
But I much prefer the user-friendly simplicity and lightweight aspects of AIOSEO.
There are no flashing ads and affiliate links on your WordPress Dashboard and no colored lines in your SEO editor.
All it does is improve your SEO without any fuss. It has done it for me for years and years. It’s easy and efficient and makes your site SEO friendly very quickly.
As well as the basics of adding SEO titles and meta tags and descriptions when you write a blog post, two free add-ons make life so much easier.
You can easily add an XML sitemap. With the social media add-on, it appends all the open graph tags you need on your site.
Over 2 million WordPress users use the plugin, so it must be good, and it is.
4. Ninja Forms
There are a lot of WordPress form builders and plugins.
But generally, you only need to create a contact form on one page of your site.
I have used a few different form plugins, but the standout for simplicity and functionality is Ninja forms.
It is free and very easy to use and doesn’t affect your site load time.
You can create custom forms and opt-in forms with a good choice of drag and drop custom fields in minutes. You can also set up auto-reply emails.
In all honesty, a contact form plugin should be reliable, simple to set up, and use. Ninja Forms ticks all these boxes.
5. Post SMTP Mailer
If you have a contact form on your site, it uses the WordPress email function.
WordPress emails also send you admin notices, as well as auto-updating of plugins.
But you have no record of the emails that you have received.
Post SMTP solves the problem. You can find every email either sent or received in the log. From there you can check or resend emails.
It also logs any auto-replies you might use on your site.
There is an easy setup wizard to get started, and then you will be able to quickly check and monitor all your WordPress emails.
In the past, I used a paid premium plugin to get all these tools.
But now, of course, I’m very happy to have this free plugin that does an even better job.
You probably have a cache plugin, or you use Cloudflare or a similar CDN.
Autoptimize makes it easy to minify your files with just a few quick settings. It can also optimize Google fonts.
The default settings will work for most blogs. But you can fine-tune your settings if you wish.
With more than one million users, it is now one of the most popular plugins on WordPress.
7. A3 Lazy Load
With so many people using mobile devices now, lazy loading is a must.
I have tried a lot of plugins, but this one outperforms all the others.
It is super easy to set up, and after that, you can forget about it. Your pages will load faster because all your images and videos will be deferred until a user scrolls down your page.
Lazy loading for images is native since WordPress 5.5, but it is very basic with no options.
The big plus for this plugin is that it will lazy load videos, widgets in sidebars as well as post thumbnails. You can toggle all the options on and off to suit your site.
You should be extremely selective about which social sharing button plugins you use.
If you want to have sharing buttons on your posts and pages, Grow, which used to be called Social Pug is one of the best choices.
It is super lightweight and has zero effect on your site loading speed.
It is very user-friendly and comes with a host of features, and you can customize the sharing buttons to suit your post types, site design, and placement.
9. Nextscripts SNAP Autoposter
If you have a little bit of technical ability, SNAP Autoposter can do any, every, and all the social sharing you can possibly imagine.
The first big advantage of this plugin is that when you write a blog post and hit publish, it will automatically share your post on all the social media accounts you have set up.
You will never need to use all the networks that are available with this plugin because there are just so many.
There is also a reposter where you can schedule the posting of your existing blog posts. But there are lots of settings to restrict it by category, dates, or the age of your blog posts.
It is one plugin that I would advise will take a little while to become familiar with due to the number of features and possibilities it offers.
But once you have it working, it is a great traffic driver for your site.
It also has UTM codes that you can edit and modify for Google Analytics so you can track how well it is working for you.
While the free version is sufficient for most people, it is a good idea to consider the paid version.
It is only $49.00, and one license allows you to use it on as many sites as you have on the same host.
With the license, you get access to a lot of extra stuff, of course.
But the best by far is the SNAP API for Facebook. It solves the problem of getting approval for new Facebook apps, which has affected so many users.
I am not an affiliate for this plugin, so I am only offering my opinion as a user. But for me, it is one of the best WordPress plugins to increase traffic.
You often need to add some code to your site. It could be for Google Analytics or to verify your site.
But editing your theme files or using Cpanel is not an easy task for new bloggers. It can often lead to a site crash.
The easiest way to add code and scripts is to use this simple plugin. All you need to do is paste the code in the header or footer of your site.
It makes what was a difficult job very easy.
11. Updraft Plus
You only appreciate the value of a backup plugin when something goes horribly wrong.
The rest of the time, you can forget that you even have it installed.
One of the problems with a free solution for backup plugins is not with making backups. It is with the ease of restoring when you have a problem.
It is useless to have your restore files stored within your WordPress installation, because when it goes down, so do your restore files.
Updraft Plus solves the issue perfectly. All your backup data is stored outside of your WordPress installation. You can send your backups to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Amazon S3, and a host of other services.
You can schedule your backups and even set incremental backups to be 100% certain that your site is totally secure in case of an emergency.
While there is the possibility of your site being hacked, the more common situations are file corruptions, coding errors, or plugin conflicts.
Having a quick and easy way to do an instant restore is an invaluable asset to protect your site. It has saved me many, many times.
12. LuckyWP Table of Contents
You can see this plugin at work on all my blog posts.
Not only is a table of contents a help for your site visitors, but it is also great for SEO.
The jump links in the TOC create breadcrumbs that Google search recognizes.
This free plugin comes with lots and lots of options for style and placement of your TOC on your content.
You often need to delete an old or outdated post from your blog. When you do this, the page will result in a 404 page not found.
It is always better to set up a 301 redirection from your old page to either a new one or to an existing page. That way, you don’t lose traffic or backlinks from your old post.
You can do this by editing your htaccess file, but it is easy to make a mistake and cause your site to crash.
Redirection is a free plugin that makes the job very easy. All you have to do is paste your old URL and redirect it to a new URL.
You can also track any 404 errors on your site and quickly add a redirect to fix them.
There are thousands of WordPress plugins. You can set up an online shop with a payment gateway, start membership sites, add an email manager, or install a page builder.
But no matter if you select free, premium, or paid plugins, you should always test and check to make sure it will do the job efficiently, reliably, and without slowing down your site.
Most of all, it will need to do a set task that will work for you around the clock.
I use all of the plugins I have mentioned in this post.
They are all working away in the background right now doing their job, while I am doing mine, which is writing this article.