While it’s no great secret that WordPress grown become the best blogging platform on the planet, some are still surprised to learn that it’s also a terrific solution for a regular website with its stellar CMS (Content Management System).
Out of the box WordPress works pretty well to build a website. In fact in most cases I avoid using ANY extra plugins that aren’t absolutely necessary. That being said here a handful of plugins that can really take your businesses’ web presence to new levels. These are in no particular order and all serve different purposes.
All In One SEO
This is a great plugin that’s been around for some time and does a good job at optimizing your WordPress site for Search Engines. Some highlight features include automatic generation of META tags, automatic optimization of titles for search engines, and preventing indexing of duplicate content. In addition you have access to all your SEO properties (descriptions, keywords, title tags, etc) directly in the WordPress page editor. There are similar plugins out there but don’t waste your time… This one’s the winner.
Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin has a very specific purpose. It dynamically takes your entire site and converts it into a special XML file that is optimized for search engines (specifically Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com) so that they can re-index your site in a fraction of the time. In addition it notifies these search engines whenever new content is added to your site.
This plugin is simply the easiest way to integrate Google Analytics tracking to your entire WordPress site. In addition to making it a breeze to add the tracking snippet it also adds a nice traffic overview to your WordPress dashboard when you login.
Our first paid plugin to make the list but it’s absolutely worth it. Though WordPress can be backed up manually it can take a while. And even then there’s no automated way to restore it all. Enter BackupBuddy which backs up EVERYTHING (content, themes, widgets, users, plugins, etc) with a click of a button. You can also schedule backups and have them automatically saved to your server or even emailed to you. But the BEST part of BackupBuddy is that it also comes with an automated way to restore your backups which NONE of the free plugins can do. If you’re looking for a free solution WP-DB-Backup is decent but again only backs up your database and doesn’t provide a way to restore your site.
Another paid plugin but it really is the easiest way to create contact forms in WordPress (if not the easiest way to create forms period.) It has all sorts of features (like multi-page forms and conditional fields) but its real strength is its visual form editor. A decent free solution is Contact Form 7 but it’s not nearly as user friendly or robust as Gravity Forms.
This comes pre-installed with WordPress (and is one of the ways Matt actually makes money off of his amazing platform if you’ve ever wondered) but is absolutely essential if you plan on allowing commenting on your site. It monitors user submissions and has a way to automatically tell if its spam or not (which is very accurate I might add). It’s free for personal users but the pricing for businesses is reasonable too.
Of all the social sharing tools AddThis has risen to the top of the pack. Luckily for us they’ve released their tool as a WordPress plugin which makes it really easy to enable post/page level sharing on your website. It has several appearance settings which I also find quite handy.
WP Super Cache
I remember hearing “yeah WordPress is great but not for an enterprise level site that gets millions of hits a day.” If this is a “problem” you’re encountering with your WordPress site you should look at the WP Super Cache Plugin. It creates cached versions of your pages/posts so they’ll load with minimal effect on your webserver’s processing.
MORE GREAT PLUGINS
I don’t list these as essential because not all sites would necessarily employ them, (or have a marketing automation platform in place) but they are definitely worth looking into.
HubSpot for WordPress
See my previous blog post here.
WordPress-to-Lead for Salesforce CRM
See my previous blog post here.
Advanced Custom Fields
This one isn’t necessarily essential depending on what you’re doing with your site but I have to give it a shout out since it’s brought me so much joy as a developer. In a nutshell this lets you add custom content types to your site and allows you to add these new fields directly into your WordPress page editor using all the standard WordPress editing tools. This plugin extends the WordPress CMS’ ability to work with highly custom sites and content types. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/advanced-custom-fields/
There are even better paid galleries out there and while it’s not always the most intuitive to use, this remains the best free WordPress gallery plugin based on flexibility and features. For most company’s needs this is a fine image gallery solution. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/nextgen-gallery/