With over 55,000 plugins on WordPress at the time of writing, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. If you’re a small business owner and you’ve just taken the plunge into the world of WordPress or if you’ve had your website for ages and want to take a look at refreshing the plugins you use on your site, this quick resource will give you a concise overview of the absolute essential plugins we think you should have on your site, all of which have a free basic version.
Using a drag-and-drop page builder is an absolute necessity for pretty much everyone with a WordPress website. Even if you know how to code a website from scratch, there is almost no value from doing so when a page builder can offer a practically unlimited amount of customization at a fraction of the effort. For time-poor small business owners who still want to have some control over the design of their website, they are a god-send. They make it easy and intuitive to drag and drop elements onto your web-page and arrange them and customize them until they fit your vision for the business.
At Webfiki, we’ve trialled most of the major page builders out there and in our experience, none quite equal the ease-of-use and breadth of customization provided by the Elementor plugin. While plugins like Beaver Builder deserve an honorable mention, we’ve found that they fail to deliver the full package of page-building tools that Elementor does. They are also usually less intuitive to use and can be somewhat intimidating at first due to cluttered user interfaces.
While we believe the free version will be sufficient for most small business owners, Elementor also offers a paid version, which includes templates and additional tools.
If you’re a small business with a website, there’s a good chance that you’ll be looking to sell things through your website. While the concept of integrating e-commerce functionality into your website may seem intimidating at first, fear not because there is an incredible plugin called WooCommerce that will provide you with all the basic functionality you need to start selling products online for free.
Once you install and activate the plugin, WooCommerce will automatically create a Shop page, a Checkout page and a My Account page where customers can view and manage their details and purchases once they create an account. You will then be able to create products and configure them with a price, image, shipping information and other important details. You will also be able to setup an inventory management system which will notify you when your stock levels are getting low. Other features include automatic emails for invoicing, payment options including PayPal and Stripe as well as a host of other e-commerce tools that will get you up and running and able to sell products very quckly and without having to hire a developer.
Jetpack is a plugin created to provide WordPress.org users with the same handy tools that WordPress.com users got by default. If you’re not sure of the difference, WordPress.org is the content management system (CMS) that you’re likely currently running while WordPress.com is the blogging platform that offers far less customization. What it does offer though, is a dashboard for viewing and analyzing traffic to your website, as well as security features and tools to improve the loading times of your websites pages. Jetpack is the way in which WordPress.org users can access that useful suite of tools while still retaining the breadth of customization that comes with the WordPress.org CMS.
Some of the features we have found to be most useful for Jetpack are the site stats, update scheduling, security features and image optimisation. The site stats are basically a window that shows up in your Dashboard as well as a bar-graph on the black bar that appears at the top of your site when you’re logged in that shows the number of visitors to your website as well as what pages they visited. While there are more in-depth site statistics tools out there such as MonsterInsights, this basic overview may be enough for some small business owners who want to see their traffic at a glance without being overwhelmed by stats. Jetpack also allows you to choose which of your plugins you would like to set to update automatically, which is useful for those who don’t want to be logging in to their site every week to update plugins manually. The plugin also includes security features such as malware scans, downtime monitoring and spam filtering, which is essential for any website. Finally, Jetpack includes a tool that optimizes the images on your site to improve page-load times. This is essential for any website as the faster your pages, the better your chances of keeping visitors on the site (as well as SEO benefits).
4. Yoast SEO
If you have a website for your business, there’s a very good chance that you’ve heard the term SEO before. If you don’t know already, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is an all-encompassing term, which refers to the ways in which a website may be optimized so that it plays well with Google’s (and other search engines) Search algorithms. For a small business owner, you will need a basic SEO strategy to ensure your website gets the exposure it deserves. This doesn’t have to be an overly complicated exercise however and while we do offer SEO services for those who want some help crafting their strategy, there are tools out there which can help take care of the basics. The most useful tool we’ve found in our experience is the Yoast SEO plugin.
What Yoast does well, is it handles the more technical aspects of SEO such as creating an xml sitemap of your website as well as making it intuitive for you to do things like edit the way your web pages look in search results. It also allows you to choose a keyword for each page and then provides feedback to you to help you optimize that page to show up when people search for your chosen keyword. This is all absolutely essential stuff that would otherwise require a degree of coding knowledge. So for a small business owner who wants some control over their SEO strategy but doesn’t want to worry about inserting snippets of code into their site’s HTML, Yoast is a very helpful tool to have.
5. WP Forms
Creating a contact form that allows visitors to your site to ask you questions or subscribe to a newsletter is one of the basic requirements that any small businesses website needs to meet. It’s why we include a contact form as one of the standard elements in our Basic Website Package. It’s also the reason that so many contact form builder plugins exist. Having tried a fair number of these plugins however, we’ve concluded that the best one for the owner of a small business website is WPForms.
The reason we like WPForms is because it does the basic job of creating a simple contact form or newsletter signup very well. The paid version also offers a wide range of useful options such as fields for file uploads, ratings and payment options. However the major reason we prefer WPForms to other form builders is actually a very simple one – it automatically lets you create a name field that looks like this:
Instead of this:
Now that might seem like a trivial thing and one that you would expect of all contact form plugins but alas, in our experience we have found it to be a shocking rarity with most plugins only offering the latter option. WPForms also makes it easy to adjust the size of each text field while other plugins, again, lack such advanced capabilities. This is why we recommend WPForms for those looking for a nice easy experience creating a contact form (fair warning – actually configuring the contact form to work with email can sometimes be a tad more complicated).
6. W3 Total Cache
Slow page-loading speeds can be the death of any good-looking website. If visitors have to wait around for more than a second or two for your page to load, chances are they’re going to hit that ‘back’ button and try somewhere else. While a number of things can impact the time it takes your page to load, caching your pages for fast delivery is a simple way to improve page-loading times. Essentially what these caching plugins do is they save the pages of your site in memory so that when a visitor accesses the site, WordPress doesn’t have to dynamically generate the content each time but instead, simply serves your visitor the content via the cache. This is a must for any small business website seeking to improve both the user experience for customers as well as improve their SEO. W3 Total Cache makes this process relatively easy.
The reason I say ‘relatively easy’ and not ‘a piece of cake’ is because of the massive amount of optionality and customization that W3 Total Cache offers. For a non-technical user this will seem overwhelming at first but fear not because in reality, the default settings for the plugin will take care of most of your caching needs. You may also want to look into ‘minifying’ your site’s content as well as a CDN for larger sites but for the most part, you can just install and activate this plugin and then leave it as is. The reason we like W3 Total Cache over other caching plugins is because for a free plugin, they offer a massive amount of features that rewards those who want to do a little extra research with noticeably faster page times. If you feel like there are better ways to spend your time than researching page-speed optimization, we also offer page-speed optimization services that mean you don’t have to worry about it.
7. Limit Login Attempts Reloaded
Last on our list but certainly not least is a little plugin that does one thing and one thing only and that is – limit the number of times a person (or computer) can try to login to your website using the wrong login details. Having discussed plugins that let you build every page on your website, install e-commerce functionality at the click of a button and manage your whole SEO strategy, it may seem anti-climactic to finish with a plugin that just lets you limit login attempts but in our experience, we have found this little guy to be every bit as necessary for a website as all the other plugins that we have featured on this list. The reason Limit Login Attempts Reloaded has made the list is because of how essential limiting login attempts is for a website’s security.
One of the most common ways a hacker will attempt to break into a website is by using a ‘brute force’ software program that will try a huge variety of different passwords until it finds the right one to login to your website. These programs are usually automated to scour the internet to look for likely suspects and then to try and break into the website once they’ve found the login page. The easiest way to protect against these programs is just to install a simple plugin such as Limit Login Attempts Reloaded which gives you control over how many times an incorrect login can be entered before then locking the person or program out of the site for a set period of time. By default, this number is set to 4, which provided you’ve chosen a decently secure password, should mean that spamming your login until they hit gold is now impossible. Other security measures such as hiding your login page and protecting file editing capabilities on your site are also advisable and are services that we offer.
And that’s it! You are now armed with the 7 most useful plugins on WordPress out of the 55,000+ that exist as tested by yours truly.
To recap, the 7 plugins that we believe every small business website should have are:
This should provide a very solid foundation for any small business owner out there looking to create or improve their WordPress website.
Do you have a favorite plugin that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments section down below!
Alternatively, if you have any further questions, we are always available via our contact page as well as our Facebook page. We also offer web design and development services for small businesses in the Penrith and wider Sydney region so if you’re looking for a new website or a revamp of your existing website, consider having a browse of the services we offer.