Is your website slow and insecure?
Are you struggling to update your site and improve it’s search engine rankings?
Or perhaps your finding it hard to create a simple and effective way of generating website leads.
Well, much like Apple with its apps, with WordPress, there’s a plugin for that. And, best of all, these are just a few of the problems my 5 essential WordPress plugins can help with.
WordPress plugin’s in general can expand and improve the functionality of your WordPress website in an almost endless amount of other ways though. All through a simple one-click installation.
But with over 35000 free plugins in just the WordPress plugin directory, plus a whole additional premium (paid) plugin industry, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff and cherry pick just the essential WordPress plugins for your small business website?
What Will I Learn?
How These Plugins Help Will Help Your Business
This article and the carefully selected plugins I’ve included will help you to…
- Easily edit and improve your websites onsite search engine optimisation to increase search engine rankings and traffic.
- Protect your WordPress website from malicious hackers and internet bots looking to sabotage your website and hard work.
- Improve your websites page load time for happier users, increased engagement and search engine rankings.
- Reduce the strain on your server to further enhance load times and traffic.
- Easily create simple to complex webforms with a few clicks and generate valuable leads and information from your site visitors.
- PLUS a sixth bonus plugin that will help you sleep better at night!
So, with out further ado, read on to discover the 5 essential WordPress plugins that I immediately install and configure on every new WordPress website that I build as a freelance web designer (plus one bonus plugin!)…
1. WordPress SEO by Yoast
The WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin provides the tools necessary to easily optimise your websites content and structure for the search engines. Doing this helps you to achieve better search engine rankings, which in turn leads to increased traffic, leads and sales.
Now, there are many other WordPress search engine optimisation plugins out there, but in my opinion (and many other experts), this is by far the best.
The plugin was created, and is maintained beautifully, by well known WordPress SEO expert, Joost de Valk.
After installation, the plugin allows you to easily edit and update a huge range of onsite elements that will help you to improve your websites search engine rankings. Some of these optimisations include XML Sitemaps, RSS elements, .htaccess and robots.txt, as well as meta tags and link elements needed by search engines for optimum visibility in search results.
Creating good content is only half the battle of a well maintained site/blog. You also need to spoon feed content to the search engines in way they can understand. Optimising your site with a good SEO plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast will help you to do this and to get your content in front of more eyeballs.
What’s also great about this plugin is that it provides you with in situ SEO guidelines and best practices as you work.
I must stress this though, it’s still paramount that you have a thorough understanding of keyword research. No amount of onsite technical guidance can compensate for this.
Good keyword research is the foundation of all good SEO. Get this right first, then use this plugin for your onsite SEO, and you’ll be golden.
2. iThemes Security
WordPress website security is one of those boring topics that the majority of website owners rarely consider. That is until their hacked and their entire website is destroyed, or worse, wiped from existence. Don’t let this be you!
iThemes Security is one of, if not the best, solutions out there to protect you against these sort of issues and offers over thirty ways to protect your site from malicious hackers and automated internet bots.
As the name suggests it’s created by iThemes, a well known and reputable company within the WordPress community. They also create many other quality plugins, one of which is key to your peace of mind and should be one of your top priorities as a website owner. But more on that in just a minute.
Most of what iThemes Security offers is carried out behind the scenes and not something your visitors will ever see. The plugin basically takes care of all the technicalities involved in protecting your site from security threats, all from a nice, easy to use, point and click interface.
This includes features such as two-factor authentication, mandatory strong passwords, and Google reCAPTCHA to protect yourself against spammers. Plus a whole lot more.
Quite simply you don’t want your site hacked and this plugin goes a very long way towards stoping this.
Imagine a third party having access to the content on your website. How much harm could that do? What if they changed the content, like the pricing on items you’re selling or corrupted your entire site?
W3 Total Cache plugin helps you to improve the page load time and performance of your website as a whole, through the use of dynamic cache.
Website speed is another of those important areas that is often neglected by website owners. A slow site is not user friendly and Google have now stated that site speed directly impacts your search engine rankings. A faster site now means your have the potential to increase your organic search engine traffic.
A faster site also increases visitor engagement. Again, this not only improves rankings but also decreases bounce time, meaning your visitors will stick around for longer and be more likely to purchase, contact you, sign up to your email list, or complete any of your other calls to action.
There’s a lot more that can be done to create a speedy website but W3 Cache goes a long way in the process. Every WordPress website and small business owner without a caching solution should ensure that it’s set up.
4. WP Clean Up
My second performance related essential WordPress plugin recommendation is WP Clean Up, which cleans up extraneous records from WordPress.
This rids your website of unnecessary data and reduces the size of your WordPress database, which then produces a smaller memory print and faster website load times.
Install the plugin and then simply run the clean up function on a regular basis, perhaps monthly if you can, to keep your database lean, mean and fully optimised.
An optimised WordPress database equals a smooth running WordPress website and happy small business owner :-)
5. Gravity Forms
Have you ever had the need to collect input from a website user? Creating HTML forms can be a drag, especially if you’re not a coder (or want to avoid using one!).
This is where Gravity Forms excels.
Gravity Forms is a form builder for gathering visitor input, created by Rocket Genius. The tool offers a visual forms editor, supports multi-page forms, offers conditional fields, and integrates beautifully with WordPress.
Gravity Forms provides the non-programmer with the ability to easily create and integrate forms into there website to collect appropriate information from readers/users. Easily create any type of web form such as contact, email, survey or polls with a few clicks, without any coding knowledge.
Through the use of additional add-on plugins, you can also integrate Gravity Forms with other services such as MailChimp, Stripe, SalesForce, Zapier and much more.
Gravity Forms is a premium paid plugin, but it’s by far the best web form solution out there. And, as with all premium plugins, your guaranteed ongoing support and updates from a solid business and team of developers.
Go get it now if you want the easiest, most flexible, most powerful way to collect website visitor info using web forms.
6. BONUS PLUGIN – BackupBuddy
Have you ever thought about what would happen if you lost your entire website? Or even a few pages of it?
It’s not a nice thought, but unfortunately mistakes and security breaches can and do happen.
An automated website backup system is key to protecting yourself against website disasters. But again, like website security, it’s something a lot of website owners neglect to put in place.
If your haven’t got one yet, or weren’t even aware such a thing existed, it’s OK, your not the only one. But for the sake of your own piece of mind, as well as your web designers/developers sanity, you really should get one straight away.
The solution I personally use and recommend is BackupBuddy, a complete WordPress website and blog backup plugin system. As I hinted at earlier, it’s another plugin from iThemes, and the sixth and final essential WordPress plugin that I recommend every WordPress powered small business website have installed.
It’s not a plugin I automatically install on every new site I build, but thats only because I currently don’t have a developers multi licence for it, like I do for Gravity Forms. But you can be sure there’s no way I’d be without it on this site! The majority of my business comes through my website, if I lost it it would be devastating!
As any good site should, a self hosted WordPress website or blog gives you complete ownership and control of your content, but you’re also the one responsible for taking care of your site’s content.
BackupBuddy, makes it very simple to save automated website backups locally, or as I recommend, safely offsite using free cloud services such as Dropbox and iThemes very own “Stash”…
You’re able to schedule backups automatically on a daily, weekly or monthly basis either individually for your WordPress database or files, or simply all of them at once.
It also offers malware scanning, tools to track down potential server problems, as well as a migration tool that allows you to easily clone or move any existing WordPress site in its entirety. iThemes also has plenty of handy video tutorials to get you started.
Here’s a quick one showing you how to get setup in minutes…
When your website is hacked, that page you spent 8 hours writing is accidentally deleted or your database get’s corrupted, you’ll thank me and yourself for having a backup solution such as BackupBuddy.
If you have a WordPress powered website, BackupBuddy will give you peace of mind knowing your site is safe and save a whole lot of time, stress, expense and lost revenue in the event of a disaster.
Essential WordPress Plugins Wrap Up
So there you have it, my 6 essential WordPress plugins for every small business website.
This was not meant to cover every great WordPress plugin out there. Just the ones that I consider essential and the five that I configure with all the WordPress websites I build as a freelance web designer. While you may end up with more plugins on your site eventually, these six are a great introduction and a solid foundation for any new WordPress site.
What are your essential WordPress plugins? Leave your thoughts or questions in the comments below.