October 30, 2020

Are all WordPress Plugins Free?

WordPress Plugins

the website architect

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free wordpress plugins

The majority of WordPress plugins are free to download and use directly from the WordPress plugin store. Some plugins have premium paid versions that offer more features than the standard free version. More rarely, plugins can also be strictly only-paid and offer no free version like WPBakery. However, the feature of using plugins requires a paid plan if you are using wordpress.com

Plugins can add a lot to your website. Some might say that plugins are what makes WordPress so great and powerful to use. From simple Instagram feeds to secure E-Commerce systems, plugins can add (mostly) whatever functionality you desire to your website. Let’s jump into how you get, where you get them, and how you can even get some paid ones for free.

Can you install plugins on the free version of WordPress?

The feature of using plugins requires either a business plan with your wordpress.com website or the use of wordpress.org’s free do-it-yourself WordPress framework.

If you don’t understand if your website is using wordpress.org’s framework or wordpress.com’s application, there are some questions you can ask yourself to figure out how your WordPress website was made:

  1. Was your website made by an agency or a web developer? If yes, most likely its wordpress.org’s free framework.
  2. With not much web development experience, did someone quickly make the website themselves? If yes, most likely wordpress.com.
  3. Do you remember your website URL having x.wordpress.com in it? If so, you have wordpress.com
  4. Does the screenshot below look familiar to you? If so, you have wordpress.com.

If your website is made through wordpress.com, you will have to purchase the business plan with WordPress.com to enable the plugin feature.

Unfortunately, there is no way around having both plugins and not being on at minimum the business plan with your wordpress.com website. However, there is a half-way around it.

How do you install plugins in WordPress without a business plan?

Unfortunately, you need at minimum the paid business plan to use plugins on your wordpress.com website. A way around this is you can get your website re-done and developed into a wordpress.org website. Considering this is a more technical way around it, you will probably need to hire someone knowledgeable like a web developer or agency to do this process for you.

Like me! Being The Website Architect, I create these kinds of websites as a business and passion of mine. If you do want a great website that uses plugins and that you’ll never have to pay a monthly fee for again, we can get in touch and discuss your project.

Are plugins worth the business plan?

If you’re getting more serious about your website, $33 USD for the business plan could be worth it. If your website is for a business and designed to generate leads and sales then the addition of plugins can certainly help you get better results.

Contact form plugins, email capture plugins, A.B Testing plugins, and much more are all used by other businesses to get more sales from their WordPress website.

However, if your website doesn’t get much attention then upgrading to the business plan probably won’t be worth it.

Where do you get free plugins?

You get free WordPress plugins from the plugin store in through your WordPress dashboard or by searching through WordPress’s live plugin directory.

To get and browse through the plugin store:

  1. Log into your wordpress website
  2. Go to plugins in the left side menu
  3. Click the “Add new” button at the top

Browsing plugins in the store directly from your WordPress website offers the best experience because you can install a plugin in seconds with 2 clicks. The search results also tend to be more accurate and reputable as opposed to the live plugin directory.

What are the best free WordPress plugins?

Some of the best free wordpress plugins are the most popular ones.

  • Elementor for making website layouts and custom pages
  • WooCommerce for making your website have products and payment processing
  • Jetpack for a lot of different things like security, backups, speed, and statistics
  • Contact Form 7 to add contact forms
  • Yoast SEO so you can do some technical SEO to get your website higher in the search results
  • Wordfence for security, prevent malicious attacks, and for malware scans

Picking the best plugin for your situation

As of the time of writing this post, there are currently 57,912 plugins in the plugin store. For whatever you’re trying to achieve with your website, odds are there are multiple plugins to choose from.

The best plugins tend to have more installations and higher reviews. When choosing from multiple choices, choose one that’s reputable with 4+ stars that looks easy to use.

Where do you get paid premium plugins?

As mentioned before, most plugins that are paid come free but add features on top of that. When you download a plugin (for free, that has a paid version) it will usually advertise that when your using the plugin in the WordPress backend.

A plugin may list out some customization options and mention some that are “Only available in the premium version.” and a link of where you can upgrade.

Most of the time, plugins authenticate and know of your plugin purchase by requiring a valid purchase key to work. Paid plugins usually have the resources behind them to create their own website and purchase-key system to verify plugin purchases.

If that isn’t the case, some plugins simply provide you the download of the premium version of the plugin that has the features that the free version doesn’t. However, this method can lead to unwanted reproduction of the plugins by people distributing them.

How much do paid plugins usually cost?

The price of any given plugin can range depending on the depth of functionality they provide. A simple gallery plugin can cost you $25, when a more comprehensive plugin like WP User Frontend can cost you $160 a year.

Generally speaking, the average cost of a plugin is around $10 – $100. However, the price range can differ come type to type.

Plugin TypePlugin ExamplesTypical Price Range
GalleryWPDevArt’s Gallery, Envira Gallery, NextGen Gallery$24 – $100* one-time
Image CompressionShortPixel, Smush, Optimole$5 – $40* per month
SliderSmart Slider 3, Slider Revolution, LayerSlider$25 – $35 one-time
Page BuilderWPBakery, Elementor$45 one-time – $50 yearly
Speed OptimizationW3 Total Cache, WP Rocket, Perfmatters$40 one-time – $100 yearly
Technical SEOYoast SEO, All In One SEO Pack, SEOPress$40 – $90

* Some of the plugin plans have very premium features that the average user won’t need, so those premium plans/prices have been excluded.

How do you get paid premium plugins for free?

If you are on a budget and don’t want to put money towards your plugins, you can browse through GPL Vault which is a purchaser and re-distributor of WordPress plugins and themes that makes the paid plugins available for free download.

GPL Vault is completely legal, however, it lessens the support the plugin developers give and get from its users. If you do want to directly support your plugin developer, you should buy their plugins from the plugin’s website.

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I'm The Website Architect, just another web developer in Toronto, Canada. I'm passionate about Web Design, WordPress, and anything to do with websites. My goal is to make the Internet a more beautiful and usable place, one design choice and website at a time.