Modern Blogging Made Easy:

Elevate your WordPress website with these FREE modern optimization plugins.

Congratulations on starting your own WordPress blog! Now, it’s time to install some plugins to optimize your new website for its launch.

But with thousands of free WordPress plugins to choose from, where should you begin?

Moreover, what functions and features should you look for when it comes to WordPress plugins for bloggers, small business owners and creative entrepreneurs?

I understand how plugins can seem especially overwhelming for new WordPress users and beginner bloggers. As a digital marketer who creates and works extensively with WordPress websites, I’ve tried and tested many free plugins, and I’ve found some to be a lot more useful than others.

That’s why I’ve listed 20 free essential WordPress plugins for new bloggers in 2020 in this article to help you optimize your new website for speed performance, search engine optimization, working productivity, and more.

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: The following content contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through any of the qualifying links, I may earn a commission, at no extra cost to you.

Table of Contents
    1. Modern Blogging Made Easy:
  1. Elevate your WordPress website with these FREE modern optimization plugins.
  2. Coming Soon Page
    1. Minimal Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode – Coming Soon Page * by WebFactory Ltd
  3. SSL Certification Setup
    1. Really Simple SSL * by Rogier Lankhorst, Mark Wolters
      1. What is an SSL certificate?
  4. Image File Size Compression (without loss of quality!)
    1. Smush – Compress, Optimize and Lazy Load Images * by WPMU DEV
  5. Email Marketing
    1. MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress * by ibericode
    2. ConvertKit * by ConvertKit
  6. Website Performance Optimization
    1. W3 Total Cache * by BoldGrid
    2. Simple Revisions Delete * by Brice CAPOBIANCO
  7. Automated WordPress Website Backups
    1. UpdraftPlus * by UpdraftPlus.Com, DavidAnderson
  8. Search Engine Optimization
    1. Yoast SEO * by Team Yoast
    2. WordPress SEO Plugin – Rank Math * by Rank Math
  9. Anti-Spam, Security & Performance
    1. Akismet Anti-Spam * by Automattic
    2. Jetpack by * by Automattic
    3. Wordfence Security – Firewall & Malware Scan * by Wordfence
  10. Web Analytics & Reporting
    1. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics (formerly GADWP) * by ExactMetrics
  11. Boost Audience Engagement
    1. Contact Form 7 * by Takayuki Miyoshi
  12. Service Appointment Scheduling
    1. Online Booking and Appointment Scheduling by CozyCal * by CozyCal
  13. Responsive (Mobile) Optimization
    1. WP-Touch * by WPtouch
  14. Browser Pop-up Notifications
    1. PushEngage Web Push Notifications * by PushEngage
  15. E-Commerce (Product/Service Sales)
    1. WooCommerce * by Automattic
  16. Course Creation
    1. Tutor LMS – eLearning and online course solution* by Themeum

If at any point you’d like further clarification on any of the plugins below, be sure to leave a comment below. Now without further ado, let’s get started.

First things first — what does it mean to optimize your website?

Website optimization is the process of using controlled experimentation to improve a website’s ability to drive business goals.

To improve the performance of their website, website owners implement A/B testing to experiment […] to determine which changes will ultimately result in more conversions (eg. demo requests, increases in organic search results, more purchases, reduced customer service time, etc.).

optimizedly, “website optimization

Keep in mind: you won’t need to install every single one of these plugins. In fact, I highly advise against installing more plugins than you have to.

Having too many plugins can make it more difficult and much more time-consuming to figure out which one it is that’s causing issues for your website during future diagnoses (which can become a huge headache for both you and your developer!):

Too many plugins can lead to security breaches on your site, site crashes, bad performance, slow loading speeds, and more.

A good rule of thumb is to never exceed 20 plugins.

Brad Smith – “WordPress Plugins: How Many is Too Many?

For more information on using plugins for your WordPress website, Torque writer Brad Smith‘s article expands on just how many WordPress plugins is considered too many.

The descriptions below each of the WordPress plugins are meant to help you decide whether its features and functions will be helpful for your website. Feel free to click on each of the plugin names to learn more.

The best part of it all? The site optimization plugins below are simple and free to use, which is why I always recommend choosing WordPress as your go-to CMS platform for your blog or website, no matter the niche industry you may be working in.

Now without further ado, let’s get started.

Coming Soon Page

Minimal Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode – Coming Soon Page * by WebFactory Ltd

After installing your new WordPress website, you’ll want to make sure what’s under construction is kept under construction until your blog or website is ready to roll.

This Minimal Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode WordPress plugin allows you to set up a minimalist and customizable Coming Soon page.

By activating a Coming Soon page, site visitors will be welcomed with a landing page that lets your readers know that your website is still on its way — and you’ll be able to edit your website at ease in the background.

PRO TIP: Don’t let your curious visitors leave your site without a chance to stay in touch with you! Be sure to capture leads before they leave by including a way to reach you in the meantime (e.g. email address), and a note about your intended launch date.

SSL Certification Setup

Really Simple SSL * by Rogier Lankhorst, Mark Wolters

After setting up your domain and hosting, your hosting service provider will generally advise you to purchase or set up your SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate.

What is an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate functions as follows:

It ensures that your site is safe and secure from cyber-attacks.

It identifies your website as a safe and secure site to your customers, thereby helping you to maintain and increase your traffic.

Websites that use SSL tech are ranked higher by Google and other search engines’ algorithms.

bluehost, “How Much Does a SSL Certificate Cost?

SSL Certification lets the user’s browser know that your website is safe to use. Really Simple SSL is an awesome plugin that helps direct your “http://” URLs to “https://”.

PRO TIP: The ‘s‘ indicates to web browsers that your website is secure, meaning any data transferred to and from your website is encrypted.

To learn more about SSL certification, popular inbound marketing and sales CRM platform Hubspot has a great article which covers everything you need to know about SSL certificates: “A Beginner’s Guide to SSL: What It Is & Why It Makes Your Website More Secure“.

Image File Size Compression (without loss of quality!)

Adding images and videos to your website adds great value to your website for your visitors, and it also helps with search engine optimization! Most importantly —

Images are actually the biggest culprit when it comes to sucking up bandwidth and space from a server.

wpbuffs, “Optimize Images 300% in WordPress with These 18 Free Tools and Plugins

Since image file sizes directly impact your website’s loading speed and overall performance, be sure to install plugins which will help optimize your images without losing quality.

Smush – Compress, Optimize and Lazy Load Images * by WPMU DEV

Smush is an award-winning and trusted plugin that allows you to compress, optimize and lazy load images without worrying about the loss of image quality. This is a must-have plugin I recommend to all of my friends and clients for all of its amazing functions that will help with your site speed and media loading performance.

Email Marketing

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: The following content contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through any of the qualifying links, I may earn a commission, at no extra cost to you.

MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress * by ibericode

Everyone’s go-to automation platform and email marketing service Mailchimp is free to use for your first 1000 subscribers.

From creating beautiful, lead-capturing landing pages to managing email automation using powerful marketing tools, Mailchimp allows you to grow a strong community of subscribers with whom you’ll be able to connect to and engage with, seamlessly.

Once you have a Mailchimp account set up, I’d highly recommend for you to use the Mailchimp for WordPress plugin.

The plugin allows you to create awesome opt-in forms (e.g. comment, contact or checkout form) or to integrate existing Mailchimp forms onto your website to help boost engagement and to create lasting connections with your visitors.

ConvertKit * by ConvertKit

Impeccably designed for creative entrepreneurs, ConvertKit is your number one platform for automated email marketing, especially if you’re intending on selling digital products (e.g. eBooks, courses), memberships and/or service subscriptions.

With the ConvertKit WordPress plugin, you can you can insert the default form into the middle of post or page content by using the [convertkit] shortcode.

Keep in mind: While the ConvertKit plugin is free to use, you must have an active, paid ConvertKit subscription in order for you to integrate it and use it as your WordPress contact form plugin.

Website Performance Optimization

W3 Total Cache * by BoldGrid

W3 Total Cache is the fastest and most complete site performance optimizer plugin for your WordPress website. Its functions will help improve your site speed tremendously by caching its contents. I use this myself.

As you grow your website traffic, you’ll want to make use of W3’s caching abilities to improve user experience:

Page cache is responsible for creating static cache pages for each page that is loaded, so it is not being dynamically loaded upon each page load.

By having this enabled, you will significantly decrease your load time and server resources while improving performance.

wpbeginner, “w3 total cache

W3 helps boost user experience by improving your server performance, caching every aspect of your site, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration. (I use Cloudflare, and you should too!)

Simple Revisions Delete * by Brice CAPOBIANCO

When you’re working on a brand new blog, many of your posts and pages will likely undergo significant changes as you’re editing. It’s good to keep in mind that every substantial change you make to your pages and posts (even minor edits for spelling/grammar!) may be cached as a new revision.

Having too many page and post revisions saved to your WordPress website is no bueno – as this will slow down your site loading speed over time.

Delete clunky revisions of posts and pages as your heart desires with this simple plugin. Clear your blog’s revision history in just a single click with Simple Revisions Delete.

Automated WordPress Website Backups

UpdraftPlus * by UpdraftPlus.Com, DavidAnderson

As you’re editing your website, you may wish to save backups of its design and contents, just in case. Backup your files and database backups into the cloud and restore with a single click with the world’s most popular WordPress database backup management plugin.

With Updraftplus, you can upload your WordPress website backups into the cloud directly to Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 (or compatible), UpdraftVault, Rackspace Cloud, FTP, DreamObjects, Openstack Swift, and email. 

Search Engine Optimization

Yoast SEO * by Team Yoast

It’s 2020 and search engine optimization continues to thrive, baby! SEO continues to be the best way to drive organic traffic to your website for FREE.

What are the primary benefits of using Yoast SEO for WordPress? Here’s a brief overview from the team at Yoast:

Outrank your SEO competitors. Redirect manager. Content insights. Avoid duplicate content. Updated every 2 weeks. Control over breadcrumbs. Preview of your page.

Yoast SEO is the most widely used WordPress plugin that helps you optimize your website for the search engines without being an SEO expert.

WordPress SEO Plugin – Rank Math * by Rank Math

Rank Math SEO is one of the fastest climbing SEO plugins on WordPress right now, leaving many bloggers wondering – is Rank Math better than Yoast SEO?

Personally, I’ve made the switch from Yoast to Rank Math in 2020 as I found it to be the most all-encompassing free-to-use SEO plugin up to date.

While both plugins offer free-to-use versions for WordPress, some of the major features highlighted in Rank Math are only available in Yoast through its premium, paid subscriptions. (For example, where you’re only able to optimize your article for 1 focus keyword using Yoast’s free plugin, Rank Math allows you to optimize your content up to 5 focus keywords.)

To learn more about the similarities and differences between Yoast SEO and Rank Math, click here to read WPNeon’s comparison article for a comprehensive and informative review.

Psst – thinking of switching over from Yoast to Rank Math?

PRO TIP: The Yoast SEO plugin is automatically deactivated when you activate and configure the Rank Math plugin. In addition, you’ll be able to import settings and options from Yoast over to Rank Math during its installation and setup.

Anti-Spam, Security & Performance

Akismet Anti-Spam * by Automattic

Akismet is a anti-spam plugin which scans your comments and contact form submissions against a global database of spam to help your site combat against publishing malicious content.

Note: You’ll be prompted to get an API key in order to use it. Keys are free for personal blogs; paid subscriptions are available for businesses and commercial sites.

Jetpack by * by Automattic

Jetpack is the ultimate toolkit for WordPress when it comes to site design, traffic growth, and security. This handy plugin gives you everything you need to design, secure, and grow your site in one bundle.

With the free version of Jetpack, you will be able to:

Fully customize your site with free themes, image tools, and rich content.

Increase your traffic through automatic social sharing, related content, and faster load times.

Get a safer, stronger site via secure logins and protection from brute force attacks.

jetpack, “about jetpack

Wordfence Security – Firewall & Malware Scan * by Wordfence

Blogs are largely at risk for spammers and phishing websites seeking to capture important data and information from your website. To prevent this, you’ll want to secure your website’s contents and the sensitive data transferred to and from your website.

Wordfence is the most comprehensive security solution for WordPress users.

The plugin uses firewall rules, malware signatures and malicious IP addresses to keep your website safe and secure. (One of my personal favourite features is that you may get notified via email about all login attempts for your blog!)

Web Analytics & Reporting

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics (formerly GADWP) * by ExactMetrics

As you work on your website, you’re going to want access to important analytics which tell you who’s visiting your website, what they’re doing on your website, and more.

Using a Google Analytics WordPress plugin is a great way for you to prepare for A/B testing, evaluate results and plan new methods or strategies to improve your website’s overall performance and user experience.

PRO TIP: The Google Analytics Mobile app is available on both Android/iOS for those looking to check in on your blog analytics while on-the-go.

Boost Audience Engagement

Contact Form 7 * by Takayuki Miyoshi

Contact Form 7 is one of the most widely used and oldest contact form plugins for WordPress. It allows you to create and manage contact forms, customize form fields, and more.

Service Appointment Scheduling

Online Booking and Appointment Scheduling by CozyCal * by CozyCal

CozyCal is a WordPress plugin which enables you to set up a floating button on your website and encourage visitors to schedule an appointment with you directly from your website. Perfect for service-based entrepreneurs (e.g. copywriters, coaches and consultants) and businesses!

Sign up for a free account from CozyCal’s website and simply install to use.

Responsive (Mobile) Optimization

WP-Touch * by WPtouch

As of January 2018, 3.7 billion people globally were accessing the internet from mobile devices. 

broadandsearch, “mobile vs. desktop usage (latest data for 2020)

Are you currently reading this on a mobile device? Mobile responsiveness is crucial for modern websites as many users browse the web through their phone or tablets. As such, you’ll need a plugin which can help you create a seamless experience for your readers viewing your website from a mobile device.

WPtouch is a Google-recommended mobile plugin for WordPress which automatically adds a simple and elegant mobile theme for mobile visitors to your WordPress website. 

Browser Pop-up Notifications

PushEngage Web Push Notifications * by PushEngage

If you plan on updating your website often, you might want to notify your readers when new content (e.g. blog posts) are up.

Visitors may opt-in for browser notifications if you have the PushEngage plugin installed.

E-Commerce (Product/Service Sales)

WooCommerce * by Automattic

One of the best ways to monetize your blog is to set up products and/or services for sale.

Whether you’re launching a business, taking an existing brick and mortar store online, or designing sites for clients you can get started quickly and build exactly the store you want.

WooCommerce By Automattic

WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plugin for WordPress websites, designed for small to large-sized online merchants. From digital products (such as eBooks) to online services, WooCommerce is a flexible plugin that allows you to create and set up product, cart and check-out pages as desired.

PRO TIP: Make sure your WordPress theme is compatible with the latest version of Woocommerce before installing the plugin!

Course Creation

Tutor LMS – eLearning and online course solution* by Themeum

Finally, if you’re looking to create and sell courses on your WordPress website, Tutor LMS is the plugin you’ve been looking for.

From quizzes and interactive lessons to powerful reports and stats analysis, you’ll be able to set up and manage your very own online academy straight from your WordPress dashboard.

This is a must-have WordPress plugin for bloggers, online coaches and consultants who are ready to educate and empower others.

We’ve now covered the top 20 FREE essential WordPress plugins for new bloggers in 2020. Do you see any of your favourite plugins missing from this list? Let me know down in the comments below!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog below and check back soon for more tips and tutorials on all things content marketing. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you over in the next article!


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