If your start your online business nowadays, this article will help you in finding the essential tools for you wordpress website. It changes from time to time which plugins I prefer, but these 15+4 are the best free wordpress plugins I know at present in 2020.
The best free wordpress plugins for security
There is no 100% safety, we need to use at least a few tools to try to maximize the security of our websites. This includes firewall, malware scanner, backup, and antispam plugins.
1. Firewall and malware scanner
Wordfence is an essential firewall, malware scanner, login security and monitoring tool. Its free version has a one month delay of updates of firewall rules, so it is better to update wordpress, the wordpress themes and the plugins regularly. The plugin has a rating of 4.8 out of 5. The pro version is not cheap, $99 + VAT per year for one site. Without such firewall, hackers can replace your website by something else, or just insert hidden links in it, or redirect it somewhere else, etc..
It’s an important security measure that we should back up the site regularly, just think of a crashed or hacked site. The free UpdraftPlus plugin can back up wordpress files and the database, and you can restore it later when in trouble. In addition to manual backups, scheduled backups are also possible. It can save your files to Dropbox, Google Drive, UpdraftVault, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud, FTP, Openstack Swift, DreamObjects, and email. It has got 4.8 stars out of 5.
Your website contains several forms that can be spammed: comment forms, contact form, newsletter sign up forms, registration, etc. Most antispam plugins can prevent spamming of only certain forms, so you need to choose carefully, trying to protect all of your forms. There are a few options without captcha, of which I suggest to try the following ones:
- the Cerber Security plugin is the only one free plugin I know, that can prevent all of the forms from being spammed. Yet, it can have some conflicts with Wordfence, which can only be fixed by whitelisting some URLs, but it requires monitoring its log, to see, if it really blocks some functions of Wordfence.
- WP Bruiser can secure all standard WordPress forms (Login, Register, Comment and Forgot Password).
- Antispam Bee can block only trackbacks and spam comments.
The best free wordpress plugins for improving site performance
Speeding up your site can help you to keep your visitors, improves the user experience, and is also an important part of the technical SEO. Caching and image optimization are the main tools we can use for this purpose.
4. Caching to speed up your site
Fastest Cache: I tried a few caching tools, and none of them worked perfectly, some of them even broke my site, so at last I chose Fastest Cache. Its free version can already make your site fast, but I also bought the pro version. (I had used Swift Performance Lite for a while, by which you can reach very high page speed scores, but unfortunately the plugin was not stable.)
5. Image optimization
For jpg and png optimization there is an online tool at tinyjpg.com, where optimizing 20 images per day is free. But you can also use a free plugin for this purpose: Smush, which can optimize, resize, and lazy load your images. Furthermore, if you rather want to convert your images to webP format for free, there are two competing plugins: WebP Express and WebP Converter for Media.
The best free wordpress plugins for marketing and eCommerce
As this guide is for beginner online entrepreneurs, marketing and eCommerce have important roles on your website. You can build sales funnels with these tools. You lead people to your website by paid advertising, or from organic search results from google, from social media, or through backlinks, etc. Then you can e.g. offer some free lead magnet for their email address, and start to build relationships with the potential customers or clients. And/or you can sell your products or services in one or more steps.
6. Contact form
The WPForms plugin is a responsive drag and drop form builder with two spam protection options. It has got 4.9 stars out of 5.
7. Social sharing
Sassy Social Share enables your website users to share the content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Whatsapp, Tumblr, Reddit and over 100 more social sharing and bookmarking services.
8. Email newsletter
I suggest to use an email marketing service, like Mailchimp, which is free up to 2000 subscribers and 12000 emails per month. There is a free plugin for creating Mailchimp sign up forms: Mailchimp for WordPress, but if you want more such forms, or in a popup, see my popup tool suggestion below.
9. Inserting google and facebook tracking codes
If your theme has no such option, the Head, Footer and Post Injections plugin can add necessary google analytics, facebook pixel, etc. codes into the right places: head, footer and other places of the page.
10. Exit intent popup (this is not free)
When I could not find a good free exit intent popup plugin, I bought an inexpensive one: Layered popup. It can do a lot of things, its sign-up forms can work together with many newsletter tools or email marketing services, like Mailchimp. Furthermore the sign-up forms can also be inserted into the pages, so it’s not only a popup tool. It also contains many popup templates that you can modify, or you can design your own popup.
Woocommerce is a full eCommerce solution that I use for selling digital products. Its official extensions are expensive, but the free version can be enough for most of us.
12. Affiliate links
I use Thirsty Affiliates for the management of my affiliate links. You can create nice short links with your own website URL, and the plugin redirects them to the ugly affiliate URLs. Furthermore, in the editor there is a new icon that makes it easy to insert an affiliate link. For example this is an affiliate link (the only one in this article): Buy the Divi theme. The plugin can also display the number of clicks on affiliate links over a given period on a graph.
Th best free wordpress plugins for content creation and optimization
There are great tools for creating, styling, controlling and optimizing your content. The following 3 plugins are just the essential ones of them.
13. Content SEO
The Yoast SEO plugin includes several tools that help to reach a better position in the google search results with your content. It evaluates your content from many aspects of SEO and readability, so you will know what to modify or improve. It also helps in sharing on Facebook and Twitter, further options are available in the pro version.
14. Widget visibility
If you want to control which pages/posts or desktop/tablet/mobile devices your widgets are displayed on, I suggest to use the Widget Options plugin.
15. Page builder
If you need to create a complex page, like a long landing page to sell something, you may need more elements and more design options than the Gutenberg editor has. In this case you can try a page builder plugin, like Elementor. The free version has 30 widgets including testimonials, counter, accordion, toggle, star rating, etc.
Well, I hope you found some useful tools in this article, that can help to build your online business in these hard times.