Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
WordPress plugins extend the popular content management system’s capabilities and, in many cases, improve its performance. While each site may use a different combination of plugins, some of these every business must have.
Not every website needs every feature. And it does not make sense to bloat a content management system with function after function. Rather it makes the most sense to include those things necessary for nearly every website and then allow individual sites to add particular features. This is what WordPress does.
A WordPress-powered blog covering the fashion industry will have different needs than a WordPress-powered business site built to attract new customers. What follows are seven WordPress plugins that every service-sector business should consider.
Jetpack is adds a bundle of features to any self-hosted WordPress site, including a notifications system to monitor and manage site activity, a built in tool that allows users to post article links to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, and Yahoo! when the article is published on WordPress, and much more.
The Jetpack plugin is free. It was developed by the same folks that build WordPress itself. Users will need to create a WordPress.com account and connect to it.
Comment spam can be a huge problem for businesses. Akismet — which is included with all WordPress downloads, but not activated — filters comments and trackbacks, scrubbing away likely spam.
If a site manager has comments forwarded via email, this single plugin can be a lifesaver.
Akismet is also from Automattic, which makes WordPress itself. Users will need to register, but the plugin is otherwise free.
Google XML Sitemaps
The Google XML Sitemaps plugin creates an XML sitemap specifically designed to make it easier for the Google searchbot and similar webcrawlers from Bing and Ask to index a WordPress-driven website. The plugin has been downloaded more than 9 million times and has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 with other 3,000 reviews.
Although the plugin is free, businesses should consider donating to the developer Arne Brachhold. There is a donation link at the lower right of the plugin page.
Businesses frequently want to collect information from site visitors. A detailed contact form can help with this. Maybe a request for quote form or a webinar registration form is required.
Gravity Forms allows even non-technical users to quickly add functional, information-collecting forms to a WordPress site. Gravity Forms includes an simple form builder, allows for multi-page forms that may encourage users to provide more information, and makes it possible to include conditional logic so that users see different fields based on the information they provide.
Gravity Forms costs $99.00 for a three-site business license.
W3 Total Cache
The W3 Total Cache plugin is built to make a WordPress site load much faster — perhaps 10 times faster — and improve its overall performance.
According to the developer, W3Edge, the plugin saves up to 80 percent of bandwidth.
Recently, there have been some concerns that using a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache could expose some database information to potential hackers, but a security patch was added to version 0.9.2.5 of W3 Total Cache to prevent just this kind of attack.
WordPress Backup to Dropbox
Frequent site backups can save a business if for some reason a server does down or is otherwise lost.
The WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin allows users to schedule regular site backups, which are stored using Dropbox, a popular cloud storage and file sharing service.
Yoast WordPress SEO
Optimizing everything from article titles and meta descriptions to a site’s robots.txt and .htaccess files, the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin is a comprehensive tool for helping a business to get found on search engines like Google, Ask, Bing, Blekko, and Yahoo!