12 Free WordPress Plugins To Help You Start Your Website Fast
Most of the themes and plugins below have both free and paid versions and operate on a freemium model. Our main goal was to list the free WordPress plugins that we are currently using on Simple SEO Tools plus other sites and getting great results.
We have tested all of these plugins to make sure they function well together, were easy to use, and most importantly kept our websites running as fast as possible. Ease of setup is very important to us so the plugins below are a perfect solution for beginners. You could literally have a site up and running in just a half hour. However, this may only be possible when using Thrive Themes or the Elementor and Astra Starter Site combo. When applicable, we may also list a paid alternative that may be a better option for people with a slightly larger budget.
- Astra Widgets (Free)
- Essential Addons for Elementor (Free)
- iThemes Security (Free/Premium)
- UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore (Free/Premium) – Back up your site to Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
- SEOPress (Free/Premium) (Premium is around $40 for unlimited sites. Competitors charge per site)
- ShortPixel (Free/Premium)
- Tracking Code Manager by Intelly WP (Free/Premium)
- W3 Total Cache (Free/Premium) – Caching and speed optimization
- Social Warfare (Free/Premium
Optional But Useful Plugins
- Easy Table of Contents – (Free Table of Contents Plugin. A TOC is included in the paid version of Elementor)
- Plugin Organizer – Allows you to turn on and off plugins on specific pages of your site. (example – use it to turn your contact form plugin on for only your contact page. Turning it off for the rest of your site will help speed up your load time)
Fastest WordPress Hosting
WPX Hosting – WPX is by far, the best and fastest WordPress hosting we have used. They have amazing support and will even just fix problems for you. The slightly higher cost will easily be made up by the time you save from their support alone. Every time I have contacted them they have logged in and fixed my problem without me even asking. I had only asked them to point me in the right direction. In addition to the support they also offer a Free CDN (content delivery network) and the ability to create staging sites so you don’t need to edit the live version of your website.
Simple SEO Tools is getting load times under 2 seconds with the free versions of all of these plugins. We are not currently using any paid plugins or themes. I just wanted to point out what can be achieved using free plugins when you select what is needed to get the job done efficiently without adding in a ton of bloated code that won’t really give you any substantial benefits. We recently created a post about how switching to a free WordPress plugin helped us decrease our load time by 1.3s.
The other huge benefit WPX hosting offers is room for a staging site. This allows you to make an exact copy of your site and edit that version rather than making edits to the live version of your site. I love doing this when you need to make some drastic changes and aren’t sure how it will work out. This way you always have the option of deleting it and starting over with a fresh copy of the live site. This is the best way to update sites as well in case there is ever a conflict between plugins. WPX actually allows you up to 5 slots (or sites) with their standard plan. So it ends up being cheaper per website than the budget hosts and has awesome support, a staging site, and their free CDN, WPX Cloud.
Astra Starter Sites
Any of the free Astra starter sites are a great place to start when you are building your first website. Once you find a demo site you like, you can import all of its content and it will automatically have you download any additional plugins you need to make it look and function exactly like their demo site. This is one of the most frustrating parts of other themes. It usually takes hours of work to make your site look like their demo. Thankfully Astra has come up with the perfect solution for beginners, allowing you to focus on more important things like the content that actually attracts visitors. You can worry about customization later, start cranking out content right away since that is what will bring visitors in and keep them on your site.
Thrive Themes recently released their Theme Builder. It goes great with Thrive Architect which is another page builder similar to Elementor, but it does not have a free version. If you have the budget Thrive does make it easier and faster to build a site from scratch. It also makes it easier to create pages that function very well in terms of speed and performance with very little work or knowledge required. This will become even more important as time goes on and Google begins to focus more and more on the core web vitals.
You can buy the membership which includes all of Thrives products for $19 per month or purchase the exact theme or plugins you need individually. I’ve found that its easier for me to create pages that function well and look good in a much shorter span of time using Thrive. It does have an annual cost. I would have used Thrive on this site as well but had been hearing lots of good things about Elementor and wanted to give it a shot, especially since it had a free version.
I like Elementor, but I do think its easier and faster to create something custom using Thrive. I also think that Thrive has a wider variety of free templates to use as starting points. Including funnels that include a sales page, optin page, thank you page, etc. When coupled with Thrive Leads it makes creating funnels fairly simple and can even be considered a good (and much cheaper) alternative to ClickFunnels. The down side is that you will need to start with a Thrive theme and customize it from there. Astra is not compatible with Thrive.
In the future I plan to use Thrive on all sites, and only use Elementor on sites that need additional customization or functionality that would be more difficult with Thrive.
For anyone creating their first site, you won’t go wrong with the plugins listed above. Start with Elementor and import some demo content from one of the Astra starter sites, then add in the additional plugins based on the functionality you will definitely need. There may be a couple you wont necessarily use, but the above list is fairly standard. Start from there and you’ll be off to a great start without investing a ton of time or money.
Last Updated: 9-28-20