Free WordPress Plugins to Install (Basics)

Basic plugins for WordPress website - websitelearninglab tutorial for beginners

In this tutorial I will explain exactly which WordPress plugins are helpful to install for your website.

You can set up all the WordPress plugins in just a few clicks and it only takes a couple of minutes.

I will walk you through all the basic plugins that I always use for all my websites and I will explain why you need to use them.

For example there are plugins that can help to increase the speed of the webstite or to provide extra security.

Of course I’m also going to install the Elementor Pagebuilder plugin that I’ve mentioned in the previous tutorials.
With this plugin we will do the actual designing of the website later in this course.

Table of Contents

What are WordPress plugins?

Before we continue, I first want to briefly explain what WordPress plugins are.
Basically plugins are add-ons that you can install to add useful extra features and functions to your website. 

There are many free plugins available and there are also premium plugins that you need to pay for. If you use many different plugins this can make the website slower, so make sure to only install plugins that you really need and use.

Basic plugins to install for any WordPress website

I will now show you all the basic plugins I always use for all my websites.

To set up plugins, click on Plugins in the left navigation menu.

1 - Go to plugins section wordpress

Here you will see that two plugins are already set by default, the SG Optimzer and the WordPress Starter. Now we are going to remove the WordPress Starter before we are going to download and install the  other plugins.

You can simply delete a plugin by clicking on Deactivate and after that click on Delete.

2 - delete wordpress starter plugin

The WordPress Starter plugin is an extra service that is provided by SiteGround and it can help with some presettings during the WordPress install.

As mentioned earlier, in this tutorial I try to keep the amount of installed plugins at a minimum. That will help to make sure the speed of the website is optimal.

Besides that the basic WordPress settings are very easy to do as I also showed you in the previous tutorial.

3 - disable wordpress starter option

SG Optimizer

The SG Optimizer is a helpful plugin that’s included for all websites hosted at SiteGround.

What this plugin mainly does is ensure that the website speed is fully optimized.

Regularly you will see a notification next to a plugin that indicates an update is available.

At this point the only plugin we have so far is already up to date, but if that was not the case then a Upate Now option will be displayed.

It’s always recommended to keep your plugins and also your themes updated for the overall performance and security of your website.

To do this just select the Update Now option whenever it’s displayed for a plugin.

Fortunately, you can also automate this process completely by enabling the Enable auto-updates option. So then you won’t have to manually do this over and over again in the future whenever a new update is available for a plugin.

4- Enable auto-updates

Now we have to do a couple of settings in the SG Optimizer plugin. To manage the settings you need to click on SG Optimizer in the left navigation menu. 

This option is now available in the WordPress dashboard because we have the SG Optimizer plugin installed and activated and if that’s not the case you won’t have this option.

After clicking the link in the menu you have to click on the Frontend Optimization tab.

5 - SG Optimizer select frontend optimization

Over here you have to enable all the options except Combine JavaScript Files and Defer Render-blocking JS.

6 - Exclude Combine JavaScript Files and Defer Render-blocking JS

Now go to the Media Optimization tab and enable the options below.

7 - Media Optimization settings 1

After that scroll down and enable the Lazy Load Media option. 

8 - Media Optimization settings 2

Those were all the settings that were needed in this section. On the next tab Speed Test you can also check the speed of the website at any time you want to. That is also a useful extra feature that comes with the SG Optimizer.

Check out this tutorial to learn how to purge the Cache with the SG Optimizer plugin.

9 - Speed Test SG Optimizer

All 404 redirect to homepage

Now we are going to download the All 404 redirect plugin by clicking on Add New. Now go over to the search bar on the right side and search for All 404 redirect.

10 - All 404 redirect plugin

You can see that the first option has 300.000 active installations and a good rating. Click on Install Now and then on Activate.

11 - All 404 redirect plugin ativate

You can see that the plugin has been added to the list of installed plugins. You can remove the notification by clicking on Dismiss.

12 - All 404 redirect dismiss notification

This plugin ensures that all invalid links on your website are redirected to the homepage. This has advantages for SEO because search engines don’t like to rank pages that are invalid.

To give you an example,  if I now deactive the plugin and enter a invalid URL for this website in a new browser you will see a page with the message: This page doesn’t seem to exist.

13 - Page doesn't exist

Since I don’t have a page or post with this title, this is a non-existent URL and that’s why this message is displayed.

But after I activate the All 404 Redirect plugin and reload the page, the URL will be redirected to the homepage as you can see on the image below. So this way visitors will always be redirected to the homepage when they visit an invalid URL for your website.

14- Invalid page redirect to homepage


The next plugin to install is Elementor.

Click on Add New and search for Elementor.

I use Elementor for all my websites and as you can see I am not the only one. There are already more than 5 million active WordPress installations for Elementor.

15 - WordPress Elementor plugin

This is actually one of the most important plugins of this entire tutorial. This is a so-called page builder and this plugin ensures that you can easily build a super clean looking website by means of drag and drop.

It’s super simple, Elementor gives you a canvas for your page or post that you can completely build with widgets (also called elements) that you can choose from the menu.

With the free version, the most important widgets you need are already included. For example, you have a title, text field, image, video and much more.

By dragging elements and adjusting them you can create a professional website in no time.

You can adjust all texts on the website simply by clicking on it and entering a different text. You can also very easily adjust the size and color in a few clicks.

If you want to add an image just drag the image widget onto the canvas and select the image you want to be displayed. You can adjust the size and add a color overlay if you want to.

Adding a video to your page is a matter of dragging the video element on the canvas and you only have to enter the URL, for example of a YouTube video and you have directly added a video to your website.

It can be that simple!

There are tons of free widgets to use and basically you can adjust every widget completely as you want to.

Everything works the same way, just drag and drop the widget were you want it to be displayed and adjust the settings of the widget with the option in the left menu.

So this way you can design a website without all the technical hassle.

Another big advantage is that you don’t have to continuously jump back and forth from the administrator dashboard to the frontend of the website to see what the design looks like for regular visitors.

That was usually the case with designing websites in the past. You then had to build the website by doing all settings in the backend of the website. After you had saved the settings then you had to go to the frontend again to see the results.

With a page builder plugin like Elementor everything is visual as it would be on the frontend of your website like how regular visitors would see it. So you can see exactly what you are doing and you can edit all widgets for the pages and posts just by clicking on them. 

Of  course I will also show you exactly how everything works and I have also made a tutorial in which I explain the Elementor basics in 7 minutes for beginners.

Another big advantage is that you can use Elementor for free. With the free version you can already create a complete and professional looking website but you have less options and helpful features included.

Click on Install Now and then on Activate to install the Elementor plugin.

16 - Activate Elementor plugin

Close the popup to go back to the start screen of the WordPress dashboard.

Now we go back to Plugins section in the menu and we see that Elementor has been added successfully.

Elementor Pro 

The next plugin I always use is the Elementor Pro upgrade.

This add-on gives you many more options compared to the free version of Elementor as I already mentioned.

For example, you have complete flexibility to also design headers and footers and that is something you can’t do with the free version.

Elementor Pro makes it also very easy to create your own blog website by designing your custom blog template with the widgets. This features is also not included when only using the free version.

You can also create a webshop very easily with the Pro upgrade.

In addition you also have access to extra widgets and templates so you have even more options for designing your website and all these extra features will make things much easier.

I’ll now show you how to set up the Elementor Pro plugin, and if you don’t plan on doing that although I can highly recommend it, you can skip the next steps.

To purchase Elementor Pro, use the link Get Elementor Pro.

After the page has loaded you will see four different options.

The cheapest option is available for $ 49 per year. If you do the math that comes down to only $ 4 a month.

17 - Activate Elementor pro plugin

In another tutorial I will go more in depth on all the available Elementor pro pricing plans and features, but the next steps are exactly the same for all options.

The main difference between al the plans is the number of websites you can use the plugin for. So if you want to build more then one website you should go for the Advanced or Expert plan.

After you have made your choice you have to click on Buy Now to continue.

On the next page you can enter some personal details and payment information. You can pay with Credit card or Paypal and after the fields are filled in you can click on Checkout.

18 - Purchase Elementor pro

I already have an account so I will not go through these steps completely now, but it speaks for itself and is arranged within a minute.

When the account has been created, you can now log in with the specified username or e-mail and corresponding password.

After you have logged into you Elementor account you have to click on Subscriptions and there you will see the plan that you have just purchased.

Now go to Download ZIP and click on it to download the plugin and wait a few seconds for the download to finish.

19 - Download ZIP Elementor pro

Now we are going to upload the plugin in WordPress.

To do this, go back to the WordPress dashboard. In the Plugins menu you can select the Upload Plugin option.

Now click on Choose File and select the ZIP file as you downloaded it. So you don’t have to unpack it first.

After that you can click on Install Now.

20 - Upload Elementor Pro Zip

Now click on Activate Plugin to install the plugin.

21 - Activate Elementor Pro plugin

Then you will see a message that the license must be activated.
To do this, select the Connect & Activate option.

22 - Activate Elementor Pro plugin connect

After you have clicked on the link, you only have to confirm by clicking the green button Activate.

23 - Activate Elementor Pro plugin button

Now you can see that the status is Active and if you go back to Plugins in the menu you will see that Elementor Pro has been added successfully.

24 - Elementor Pro installed

Yoast SEO

Now that we have done this we are now going to download the Yoast SEO plugin which is free to use.

To download Yoast click on Add New and enter Yoast in the search field. Select the first option Yoast SEO by Team Yoast.

You can see that this plugin has been installed over 5 million times with a 5-star rating.

Click on Install Now to install the Yoast plugin.

25 - Install Yoast SEO for WordPress

 Now you have to click on Activate.

26 - Activate Yoast SEO for WordPress

This plugin allows you to optimize the pages and messages of your website for keywords that you want the website to rank on in the search engines.

27 - Yoast SEO for WordPress screenshot


Insert Headers & Footers

The next plugin I always use is Insert Headers and Footers by WPBeginner.

Go to the search bar again and enter insert header and go to the plugin displayed on the image below and click on Install Now and then on Activate.

You can see that the plugin has been installed over 1.000.000 times and also has a very good rating.

28 - Insert Headers and Footers plugin install

With this plugin you can easily add codes to the header, footer and body of your website.

For this you only have to go to Settings and after installing the plugin you have the option Insert Headers and Footers there.

To add a code you can click on it and you will see 3 fields. The top one is for the header, the middle one for the body and the bottom one for the footer.

29 - Insert Headers and Footers screenshot

If you want to add code to your site you just have to paste the code in the desired field and scroll down and click Save.

30 - Insert Headers and Footers screenshot save button

That is all it takes to add a code and you can, for example, link Google Analytics to your website by using this plugin.

So with this plugin you can add code to your website without all the technical stuff.

How this all works will be explained in more depth in a seperate tutorial.


Now we are going to install and activate the last plugin. So we click on Add New again and then search for Loginizer.

You can see that this plugin has over 1.000.000 active installations with a 5-star rating.

This plugin will protect your website from brute-force attacks. So if a wrong password is entered after a couple of attempts it will block the IP adres.

You just have to click on Install and after that on Activate.

31 - Loginizer WordPress security plugin

By default the Brute Force Protection is immediately enabled.

In another tutorial I have explained how you can protect your website from brute force attacks with the free Login Attempts Reloaded plugin.

On the image below you can see the Loginizer Security option is now added to the menu.

32 - Loginizer WordPress security plugin

Over here you can manage the settings and you could go for the premium upgrade and this will give you some extra options. But I only use the free version and leave all the settings as they are by default.

Don’t forget to Enable auto-updates

Don’t forget to enable the Enable auto-updates option for all plugins you have installed. This ensures that your plugins are always provided with the latest updates.

In another tutorial I have explained how to manage the auto-update settings for WordPress plugins and themes.

As I mentioned before this is better for the security and overall performance of the website.

33 - Enable auto-updates for wordpress plugins

All plugins are set!

Now we are finished with installing all the basic WordPress plugins you will need.

Another helpful plugin is the All-in-one WP migration plugin that allows you to export you site and upload it to another domain very easily.

Check out the tutorials below to learn which free WordPress plugins you can use to optimise the security of your website:

There are many more useful plugins you can use, but the plugins I mentioned in this tutorial are the basic plugins that I always use for all my websites. 

It’s recommended to keep your plugins and themes up to date and you can set this up automatically in the WordPress dashboard. Check out this tutorial to learn how to manage the SiteGround autoupdate settings for WordPress in the Site Tools panel.

You can watch the video tutorial on YouTube over here.

Don’t forget to like and subscribe to the YouTube channel. I would appreciate that very much!

In the next tutorial I will explain how you can create a logo, site-icon and find high quality stock images for your website.