For a lot of businesses operating online, it’s hard to imagine the internet without WordPress. For those that might not know, WordPress is a content management system known for its robust feature set and ease of deployment. Its popularity has led to the service gaining over 14 billion new pages every month, due in large part to its ease of use and customization. The platform’s flexibility allows web admins and programmers to add and subtract functionality as they see fit with very little downtime.
One fairly easy way to expand your WordPress site’s functionality is to use plugins. Plugins are packages of accessory software that are added to an existing WordPress website to extend its functionality. Plugins can provide your site with ready-made photo galleries, integrate your site’s content with social media sites, add custom contact forms and almost anything else you can think of. To date, programmers have created over 30,000 plugins that can be downloaded and integrated into WordPress websites, some of which are particularly useful for small business owners. Choosing the right plugin can enhance your customers’ web experience and even help streamline your workflow, so let’s see which ones will work best for you.
A Note About WordPress.com and WordPress.org
Before we proceed, take note that there are two versions of WordPress that are catered to different customers: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Our plugin recommendations are for WordPress.org installations, and we’ll explain why in the following paragraphs.
WordPress.com is hosted entirely by WordPress itself and is geared toward customers that are looking for a less flexible, more managed WordPress installation. Because it is managed by WordPress itself, you cannot add any external plugins that aren’t already available without submitting a request for its inclusion.
WordPress.org is the opposite, offering the platform as an installation package that users and businesses can install on their own servers. You are responsible for hosting your own site, but you also get far more control, allowing you to install any theme or plugin you want and even edit the files that come with them. If you are a small business owner, you are strongly encouraged to choose this option. Many reputable hosting companies offer WordPress installations with their hosting service at little or no additional charge.
The following five plugins are recommended for small business websites:
Jetpack is a plugin that offers a wealth of functionality. Created by WordPress, Jetpack is essentially a bundle of other plugins that can be easily implemented into any website. Important features include a statistics monitor for page views as well as many social media integration options. The plugin also provides email subscription and contact form tools to allow small business owners simple ways to collect information in central locations.
BackupBuddy provides automated backups of WordPress sites in the event of a server failure or security breach. Users have the option to restore individual files or the entire site, so that developers have the option of re-integrating past elements if so desired. Restoring a backup only takes minutes, so small business owners will not need to waste any time.
Price: $80/year to back up two sites; up to $297 for unlimited sites
3. Gravity Forms
The Gravity Forms plugin offers an advanced online form builder with an emphasis on form options and simplicity. Small business owners can use it to gather information from customers by using very granular criteria on simple order forms and conditional fields to ensure data accuracy. Information collected through the plugin can also be sent to customer relationship management (CRM) systems by Infusionsoft, Highrise and Salesforce.
Price: $39 for personal license; $99 for business license; $199 for developer license
4. 404 Redirected
Broken links are likely to occur as small business owners quickly build their sites and miss regular website audits. 404 errors are generated when a user attempts to access a page that isn’t there, causing poor user experiences and potentially ruining search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. 404 Redirected offers a simple solution by creating pages to catch any 404-error links for you. These pages will redirect the user to somewhere else in your site, saving you SEO headaches and your customers’ patience.
5. WordPress SEO by Yoast
One of the reasons the WordPress platform is so popular is because it is optimized for search engines. WordPress SEO by Yoast is one of the best tools to boost your website to the next level when it comes to SEO. Very comprehensive and yet user friendly, it allows anyone writing for your website to see how good the content is, what it is lacking and how to fix it. The bottom line is it helps you write content that’s likely to rank higher on search engine results pages. On top of this, it comes with many added features, such as XML Sitemaps.
WooCommerce is a robust plugin recommended for e-commerce sites. This plugin makes online shopping simple and allows owners to select from various themes to give the layout a clean, stylistic element. In addition to a smooth and functional user interface, the plugin has an equally large support network. WooCommerce’s functionality can be enhanced with extensions that cater to different business types, but those may come with additional costs.
Price: Free for the plugin, but additional extensions can cost $200+
One of the best reasons to use WordPress is that it’s open source, meaning small business owners are able to easily customize their sites and its functions. The number of possible combinations of plugins, themes and installations are bewildering, giving small business owners more options than they might ever need. Choosing the right combination will help to ensure an enhanced site experience for all of your customers.
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