Starting up and running a small business is not easy.
Even if you have all the knowledge and skills you need, it still takes a ton of time and effort to give the required attention to all parts of your business.
You need to create a website, get leads, convert leads into customers, create products, and so much more.
You’ll reach a point when you just can’t do it all, and that’s when you’ll need some help.
Sometimes, you can hire people. Most of the time, it’s more cost efficient and practical to see if a product can reduce your workload.
The first time you run into this is likely when you’re creating your website.
For most businesses, getting a website created from scratch is a waste of time and money. Instead of spending thousands of dollars and weeks having one created from scratch, you can use WordPress.
But as you start marketing and sales, you’ll realize that you need even more help.
This is where WordPress plugins come in.
Plugins are built to make your life easier. They make difficult tasks simple and tedious tasks automatic.
Most are free, and even if they aren’t, they’re cheap (much cheaper than hiring someone in most cases).
There’s one more challenge:
Which plugins does your business need?
The marketplace of WordPress plugins is huge, with tens of thousands plugins available.
To make your life easier, I’ll show you some of the most popular and useful plugins so you can pick the right ones for your site.
I’ve divided the plugins into 5 different sections:
Plugins to speed up your site
Plugins to help you get more leads
Content marketing related plugins
Plugins to help you sell products (i.e., list products and handle payments)
Before we dig into these, I need to give you a few words of warning: plugins are tools. Although they can help you, they can also hurt you. Installing too many will have a significant impact on your security and loading speed, so only use the ones you need (aim for 10 maximum).
Download this checklist of 28 wordpress plugins that increase profits and save time.
Make SEO simple with plugins
White-hat SEO involves a ton of manual work, so you need to automate as many of the technical aspects of SEO as you can.
1. Yoast SEO
Yoast is one of the most well-known names in the SEO and WordPress worlds. This plugin serves as an all-in-one SEO plugin that makes handling all the basic aspects of SEO simple. (Most features are free as well.)
Once installed, it’ll show up as a new menu option on the left that says “SEO.” This is where you’ll be able to navigate to the different setting areas for Yoast SEO:
I won’t go through every detail here, but I’ll highlight a few parts of the plugin that often help business owners.
In the “Titles & Metas” section, you can set how titles are displayed on your posts.
The default is a long string with the sitename at the end:
Headline of post here – Site name
But if you keep this, your title will often get cut off in the search results. For example:
You can use this section to change your default settings so that only your post title shows up (just take out “%%sep%% %%sitename%%”):
This way, your title shows up as you originally intended, which will likely result in a better click-through rate:
Another important aspect of SEO is having a sitemap, which makes it easier for search engines to index your site.
This plugin also has a sitemap section. To enable the sitemap functionality, just check the top box and save the page.
Finally, another cool aspect of the plugin is its built-in tools:
In particular, the bulk editor could be useful if you’re updating a large number of titles on an older site.
Just type in the new title, and click “save all” beside any of the new titles.
2. Google XML sitemaps
As mentioned above, having a sitemap is a simple but necessary part of good SEO.
Your sitemap lists all your posts and pages in a format that search engine bots can easily read.
Creating a sitemap manually would be a huge waste of time, and you’d have to continually update it.
With the Google XML sitemap plugin, you generate and then submit your sitemap to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools only once. The plugin will automatically update your sitemap as you publish new content.
When you click on the plugin’s settings, you’ll see a screen like the one above. Unless you have a special situation, the default settings are likely fine for you.
The sitemap URL is on the first line and is the one you should submit.
If you visit the URL yourself, it should look like this:
3. WP Optimize By xTraffic
Internal links are one of the best weapons of an SEO. On an authoritative site, you can instantly rank for low-competition terms just by pointing a few internal links to a page.
I’m a big fan of relatively frequent internal linking as long as it appears natural. You can see this in many of my posts, where I link to several of my other posts:
I recommend trying to do them manually whenever possible, but I also know that it’s easy to forget them.
You can use this plugin to automatically put internal links into your content by supplying keywords and phrases that you would like to associate with a particular URL.
If I wanted to create links to the Quick Sprout homepage, for example, I’d enter something like this into the plugin:
get SEO help, SEO advice, get help with your marketing, http://quicksprout.com
If you choose to use this plugin, you need to be very careful.
If all you do is constantly link one- and two-word phrases (e.g., “SEO”, “WordPress”, etc.), you can get penalized.
Always include as many three-word (or longer) phrases as possible for each URL you enter.
4. Local SEO and Business listings plugin
Anyone with a local business knows that their SEO needs to be a bit different from everyone else’s.
This plugin is an all-in-one local SEO plugin, and it’s a pretty solid one at that.
The free plan is enough for small sites, but it will be easy to see if it’s worth upgrading.
This plugin has a ton of useful features, most notably:
all basic local SEO settings
keyword rank tracking
The main dashboard is your business information tab, where you can edit all the basic details of your business that show up on Google Maps (address, website, etc.):
As you also might know, citations are a huge ranking factor for local SEO. This plugin monitors most of the popular citation websites so you can make sure that you’re covered on each of them:
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, you can also track any keywords you’re trying to rank for:
5. Broken link checker
All sites get broken links over time—it’s unavoidable. Content that you link to either gets shut down or incorrectly moved without your knowledge.
Having a few broken links isn’t a huge problem, but broken links are a bad thing for your readers. They get excited to click on a link and get disappointed when they see an error page. Obviously, you don’t want to routinely disappoint your readers.
This plugin regularly scans your website for broken links. In the settings panel, you specify how often it does so.
If it does find a broken link, it will send you an email notification of where and which link is broken (enter your email on that settings page). You can then fix it before many people click on it.
Keep your site running fast and smoothly
Having a site that loads fast is important for a good user experience, which is important for good conversion rates.
In some tests, just a one-second delay in loading speed resulted in a 7% reduction in conversion.
In addition, keeping your site and hosting free of “digital clutter” reduces the chances of something going wrong on the site or with your hosting provider.
The following plugins will help you keep your site clean without too much effort on your part.
It’s, by far, the best spam protection plugin for WordPress. It automatically catches a ridiculously high percentage of spam comments and moves them to your spam comment box before you even see them.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, you’ll need to get an Akismet license.
Under “settings” in the left side menu of your dashboard, click on Akismet. Then click on “get your API key” in the main window:
You’ll need a WordPress.com login to proceed (create a free one if you don’t have one already).
Finally, you can choose your plan. If you choose the basic plan (enough for most sites), you can “name your price.” While you can use the plugin free, giving a few dollars for all the time and trouble it saves you is well worth it.
7. W3 Total Cache
Caching is a simple principle. Instead of making someone download your entire page’s content every time they visit a page on your site, you can store a few static files in their browser.
This way, they don’t waste time re-downloading redundant data, and you don’t need to waste the bandwidth giving it to them; it’s a win-win.
That’s where it gets way too technical for me and most site owners. Luckily, there are smart people who develop plugins such as W3 Total Cache to do all the complicated stuff for you.
A warning: it’ll take you 30 minutes to an hour to set it up the first time, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.
Here’s a full guide to configuring W3 Total Cache for beginners.
On the general settings page, you’ll get a basic overview of all the different types of caching. You can enable each of them on that page:
Then, you can use the left side menu to dig into that particular type of caching deeper and customize it for your site:
The reason that this is so important is that it can make a huge difference in loading speed in some cases:
8. EWWW Image Optimizer
One of the main causes of a bloated page size is unoptimized images.
Most images have lots of junk data that can be stripped away without affecting image quality. This plugin does it automatically.
After you install the plugin, you can manually optimize any picture by going into your media library and clicking “optimize” or “re-optimize”:
For some pictures, you can reduce the file size by 80+%.
In addition, the first time you install the plugin, you probably won’t want to go through all your old images one by one, so you can use the bulk feature.
Go to “Media > Bulk Optimize”, and click the optimize button. It’ll take a few minutes to finish (depending on the number of pictures).
For what it offers, WordPress is amazingly robust. However, it’s still susceptible to breaking on the odd occasion.
In addition, since it’s such a popular CMS, WordPress is often the target of hackers. If you do get hacked or your site breaks, it’s always nice to have a backup on hand.
As the name implies, the BackupBuddy plugin helps you make backups of your site. In addition, you can use the plugin to restore those backups with just a few clicks.
Click on the BackupBuddy option in the left side menu, and you will see a simple interface:
The four big buttons at the top help you use all the main functions, and you can see any past backups you have made below.
The best time to make a backup is before you need it.
10. Captcha by BestWebSoft
As your website grows, it becomes a more visible target for spammers.
Akismet is one option, especially when it comes to comment spam, but if you want to stop spammers before they even get that far, consider this Captcha plugin.
Once enabled, it adds a simple Captcha or skill testing question (like the math problem shown below) to the areas of your site that you select.
Most commonly, it’s added to comments:
In addition, if you have a site where users can register, you may want to add a Captcha to your registration and login pages:
You can choose to do so by checking the boxes located at the top of the plugin’s settings:
One thing that WordPress struggles with is bloat. Every post revision that it autosaves is another thing that needs to be stored.
Every comment, whether it was approved or put in spam, also needs to be stored.
Basically, a whole lot of crap is being stored—that you’ll never need to use or see again—that’s taking up space and slowing down your website.
If you ever go into your databases, you will see a bunch of tables that contain all your stored information (much of it is junk):
This plugin goes after the worst of the worst: the redundant information that is being kept around for no reason.
You can select exactly which backup data is deleted and run the plugin manually using the button in the settings panel:
In addition, you can set it to auto-run so that you don’t have to even think about it in the future.
Go to “settings” at the top of the dashboard, select how long you want to keep backup data (your post revisions, etc.), and then specify how often it should be run:
And you’ll never have to think about it again.
Site security is one of the most ignored aspects of site maintenance by business owners, but you’ll wish you had some security in place if you get hacked or infected.
Sucuri is an all-in-one security plugin and will do everything most WordPress sites need.
It continuously monitors your site for malware and also has a firewall add-on.
You can choose between two plans: free and paid. If your business is worth tens of thousands of dollars (as a minimum), it’s worth spending a few bucks to be protected.
Double or triple your email leads without breaking a sweat
Email marketing is by far the most effective marketing channel for most businesses.
But on top of producing content and driving traffic, you also need to capture email addresses of your visitors.
These plugins will help you collect email addresses with minimal time and effort. Better yet, most of them are set up to maximize your conversion rate.
13. Content Upgrades plugin
Content upgrades are a great way to boost your conversion rate on blog posts. You can do it by offering topic-specific bonuses for each post.
If you’re going the low-cost route, this plugin is a good option. It integrates directly into your MailChimp or other major email provider account.
Once you connect the plugin, you can create as many different downloads as you like:
You get a shortcode that you can put in your content to create a button. When a visitor clicks it, a pop-up will appear asking for their email address. Once they provide it, the plugin will take them to the bonus page.
Pop-ups are controversial, but they are one of the best ways to improve your conversion rates. I think that if you use them correctly, you won’t annoy your visitors too much.
OptinMonster is one of the cheapest premium pop-up options available, and it integrates right into WordPress.
You can configure just about every part of the pop-up, down to when it shows up and what it looks like:
15. Thrive Leads
If you’re looking for a little more powerful pop-up solution, this plugin might work for you.
In addition to the standard pop-ups, it offers other types as well:
It’s got everything you need in a pop-up plugin, including split-testing. It’s also fairly easy to customize your pop-ups:
A final pop-up solution is LeadPages, which is extremely well known. It’s used by many top bloggers, and you’ve definitely seen it in action before:
It is more expensive than some other options, e.g., OptinMonster. However, you also get access to more tools such as LeadPages landing page builder. This tool makes it really easy to make a quick, high-converting landing page.
Get more out of your content marketing
Creating great content takes time…a lot of time.
I’ve shown you before how you can write faster and write better.
On top of those writing techniques, you can also use plugins to save time and produce better content.
17. Contact Form 7
Although this isn’t exactly a content marketing plugin, it fits better here than in any other section.
If you need a simple contact form that will reliably send you messages from your visitors (leads, media, etc.), this is a solid basic plugin.
Once installed, it’ll show up as a “Contact” menu option, where you can select “add new” to create a new form.
You can click the field buttons to add or remove form fields:
Most forms will look very plain.
If you spend some time tweaking the CSS, however, you can still create fairly attractive forms with this plugin:
Here’s a guide to styling Contact Form 7.
If you’re looking for a fancier option, or one with even more customization, try out Gravity Forms, which is a paid plugin. It has a wider variety of fields, and it’s a bit easier to modify it:
One of the up and coming trends in content creation is interactive content.
One form of interactive content is embedded Tweets. TweetDis is a plugin that allows you to create a clickable link or button so that your visitors can easily Tweet your message or content.
It has a few different options. You can create a box tweet:
Or you can create an inline Tweet so visitors can just click on existing text in your content:
Within the plugin settings, you can modify several different themes to your liking.
These embedded tweets increase the number of shares you get, and they also break up your content nicely.
To add one to your content, highlight the text you want your readers to tweet in the post editor, and click the TweetDis icon:
From there, you pick your options in the pop-up box. It takes less than 30 seconds once you get used to it.
You know I’m a big fan of comments. It’s great when you get to hear from the people reading your content, so encourage it.
Disqus is a good-looking comment plugin.
It has a few big pluses:
it prevents spam (no Captcha or Akismet needed)
it’s quick/easy for users once they start using it
you can still moderate if you need to
users can get notifications of replies and other responses
It’s very simple to get it running on your site. Install the plugin, and sign up for a Disqus account:
The only other thing you need to do is “export comments.” You will find this function under the import and export settings of the plugin. This will make all your old comments look like Disqus-styled ones:
20. Facebook comments for WordPress
Another good commenting system is Facebook comments.
Since people have to use their real accounts, there’s very little spam. In addition, users can get notifications and can like other comments right on your page.
The potential downside is that people without Facebook accounts won’t comment (although that’s not very many).
Setting it up is very easy—just install the plugin. You will, however, have to obtain a free Facebook app ID.
One of the ways you can measure content marketing success is through social shares.
Social shares bring traffic and make your site look more authoritative. This is one of the simplest free plugins you can use to add social sharing buttons to your website:
The icon options for the free plan are fairly limited, but they’re still pretty attractive. You can choose which icon set and network buttons are displayed and where the buttons show up (e.g., sidebar, before or after content).
One other nice feature of the plugin is that it does offer basic analytics data, so you can see how many shares you’ve gotten and in which networks.
Making an HTML table from scratch is a huge waste of time. Unless you spend a lot of time with CSS as well, it’ll look terrible.
TablePress is a good plugin to quickly create a decent-looking table. It’s often used to create comparison charts on niche sites.
If you’re not technical, there’s no way you’d be able to make a sortable and filterable table. With this plugin, it only takes a minute.
Once installed, it’ll show up as a new menu option: “TablePress.” Use the options along the top or side to create a new table, or import or export a table:
You can import tables right from a spreadsheet.
At any time, you can go to the “all tables” screen and click on any table you’ve created.
You can edit the cells, hide entire rows or columns, apply custom CSS, and change other table options (like filtering availability):
Part of driving traffic to your content from social media involves having a complete social media strategy.
The CoSchedule plugin lets you easily see what you have scheduled to post on social media and, obviously, schedule posts as well.
Once installed, it’ll show up as a shiny new calendar option in your WordPress dashboard:
The calendar shows you every social media post you have planned for a given time period. You can edit them, copy them, and drag them around.
In addition, you can go into any post you have published and see the number of social shares it has gotten and on which networks:
Take the frustration out of selling your products
Although it’s not as bad as it used to be, it can still be a pain trying to sell your products if you’re new to it.
Something that seems very simple, like putting a PayPal button on your website, is really more difficult than it should be for most people. And if you want to make it look nice, that’s even more difficult.
The following plugins will help you do everything from listing products to accepting payments.
24: eCommerce Product Catalog
This plugin helps you list products on a basic WordPress eCommerce site.
You can add a product to your site using the plugin and then display it in various parts of your site.
You can easily put together attractive product pages:
You can also have a single page for each product with more information and purchasing options:
You add a product just like you would add a post or page. Click the “products” menu option on the left, and then click on “add new product.”
Next, add descriptions like you would with any other WordPress text as well as product images.
It’s not a premium option, but if you’re looking to get a quick little test store up and running, it’ll do nicely.
If you’re serious about eCommerce and WordPress, WooCommerce is one of the most popular options for a reason.
You can create simple but attractive product listings and category pages for your products:
The product pages look professional and on par with a lot of product pages of retailers with expensive custom sites:
The biggest thing that WooCommerce offers is flexibility. You can sell any type of product (physical or digital) as well as multiple types of purchases (one-time, memberships, recurring subscriptions, etc.).
You can also set your shipping options. The plugin will tell the visitor if you ship to their location and will calculate the cost of shipping based on your settings.
Finally, you can also add payment buttons for any of the major online payment processors.
As far as using the plugin, it’s fairly simple. Add your products just like you would add a new post:
You can also see the number of sales you’ve made using the built-in analytics:
Overall, it’s a great all-in-one eCommerce option for WordPress.
26. WordPress Simple PayPal Shopping Cart
If you run a business where you don’t sell many products, you might just need a simple PayPal button now and then.
This product will make it easy to create a decent looking purchase button that connects to PayPal.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, you’ll just need to add in a shortcode wherever you want a button to show up.
It’s pretty self-explanatory: give the button a “name” and a “price.”
Once your visitors click the button, the page will automatically load a shopping cart, and visitors can check out when they’re ready:
27. WP Simple Pay Lite for Stripe
This plugin is similar to the PayPal one above, except that it creates a button that accepts Stripe payment.
I know that many business owners don’t fully trust PayPal, so they look to alternatives such as Stripe to accept payments.
It works the same way. Once you install the plugin, you can add a “buy” button by adding a shortcode like this:
[stripe name=”The Awesome Store” amount=”1999″ description=”The Awesome Blueprint Book”]
where the amount is the price in cents.
When your visitors click that button, they’ll see a standard Stripe form asking for payment details:
28. Easy Digital Downloads
Another all-in-one eCommerce option is this plugin, but it’s set up exclusively for digital products (training, e-books, etc.).
It’s not quite as complete as WooCommerce but is probably a bit simpler for the first time seller.
You can accept payments from all the major processors (PayPal, Stripe, etc.), and the plugin will deliver your digital product once someone pays for it.
Instead of a “products” tab, you have a “downloads” section, where you can add products and see your earnings:
As you’d expect, you can dig into the “payment history” to see who bought what and when they bought it:
Finally, there are also a few different reports you can access. They’ll save you time because you won’t need to produce them yourself:
The product listings aren’t really beautiful by default, but they’re not ugly either:
Customers can see their cart at any time, apply discount codes, and check out via whichever payment method they prefer:
This plugin is a nice middle ground between a simple payment button and a comprehensive eCommerce solution.
WordPress is a great platform to build most simple businesses on.
However, to get the most out of WordPress, you need to find a few plugins that suit your business’s needs.
I’ve highlighted 28 different plugins that cover five common areas online businesses need to attend to. It’s up to you to decide which, and how many, of them can save you time and make you more money.
There are many other good plugins I haven’t covered. If you know of any, please share your favorite plugin(s) in a comment below.
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