Did you know that over a third of all websites on the internet are powered by WordPress? Well, they are. And for good reason.
For anyone not in the know, WordPress is a powerful open-source website creation platform that can help you build compelling, easy-to-use websites for as little or as much as you want to invest in the site. Plenty of professional web developers and designers specialize in building customized, tricked-out WordPress sites (including me) that can do all kinds of fancy stuff. But the nice thing is that even if you don’t know how to code, create graphics, or integrate fancy stuff you can still build a simple, pleasing website without any of that knowledge.
And that’s why it’s so incredibly popular. Not to mention their vast library of plugins.
Plugin: A piece of software that can hook into your WordPress site for added functionality.
Remember when iPhones first became a thing and Apple started that marketing campaign with the catchphrase “there’s an app for that”? Plugins are a lot like that. Got something you want your website to be able to do? There’s a plugin for that.
Some are free, some are paid, but I can guarantee you that with the right plugins you can get your website to do just about anything.
If you need a new website, your org’s very first website, or you need to overhaul an existing website, I obviously hope you’ll call or email me. Seriously, I would love to work with you or even just talk through your project.
But for those who either can’t afford to pay anyone or just really have a fierce desire to DIY their website, I want to give you some options. After all, the last thing anyone needs is another crappy website, am I right?
But once you have everything in place you may be wondering what plugins you should install. There are so many out there that it’s easy to get confused or overwhelmed and everyone has different opinions. So of course I want to add my 2 cents with my top 10 gotta-have-em-for-all-websites plugins. In no particular order……
- Yoast SEO – This plugin guides you through the process of search engine optimization (SEO) with an easy-to-use set-up wizard and a color-code system to help you see at a glance how each page of your website stacks up with the search engines. If you aren’t sure exactly what search optimization is, the short answer is that SEO helps your website be found by search engines and be listed high in their rankings so that internet users can find you easily and quickly when they are searching. You want to rank high, trust me.
- WP Rocket &/or Autoptimize – There are lots of gorgeous websites out there, but even some of the best-looking are slooooow. And slow websites get dinged by the search engines, falling lower in their rankings. If you want to be at the top of the list you need a speedy site and these are my 2 favorite plugins for achieving that. They give you super simple ways to adjust the settings on your site so that it loads lightning fast, making search engines and website visitors happy.
- Updraft Plus – Updraft Plus allows you to schedule and automate back-ups for your website. Hopefully nothing bad ever happens to your site, but you should always prepare for the worst. UpDraft allows you to back-up your website files to DropBox, Drive, and other cloud storage locations so that in the event that disaster strikes, you can restore your website in a few clicks.
- CleanTalk Anti-Spam – Much like Updraft Plus, CleanTalk Anti-Spam adds another layer of protection to your website. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of shady characters in the world, some of whom would like nothing better than to infect your website with spam and watch it crash just for kicks. You can prevent this by installing CleanTalk. Just set it and forget it.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – Google Analytics is free to use and will give you valuable insights into how visitors use your site, which content they love, and what’s a dud. It will also help you with your SEO and conversions (i.e. sales and donations).
- All-in-One WP Migration – This is easily one of my favorite plugins. Building/re-building sites and uploading them to a live server or moving them from one host to another can be tedious, time-consuming, and difficult. This plugin changes all that by allowing you to download your entire site in one file and then simply upload it to a new location. The entire migration takes maybe 5-10 minutes rather than the hours or days it could take by doing it the old-fashioned way. You can also use it to make extra, easy-to-upload back-ups of your site.
- Smush – Part of what makes a website fast or slow is the size of all the files on the site, including pictures and graphics. The Smush plugin allows you to easily compress all the graphic files throughout your website in one click, instantly increasing the overall speed of your site. You can also set a maximum size for pictures to keep file size and load times in check.
- PrettyLinks – Have you ever read a really great article or found a useful website but it was hard to share it with others because the URL was crazy long? Pretty Links changes that. You can take a long URL from your website, shorten it to something memorable and easily relayed, and voila. You’ve made getting the word out about that killer blog article you just wrote so much easier. Plus, Pretty Links will help you track how many people have clicked on your link and you can even A/B Split Test with it! (Not sure what A/B Split Testing is or why it's cool? Check out my Marketing Primer Blog Post)
- Redirection – This plugin is an absolute must. It’s inevitable that at some point you will need to take down a page from your website or maybe even re-build everything from scratch. When you do, you will be left with links to your site out there in internet-land that no longer work. Redirect helps you take these old, broken links and redirect them to the correct page.
I recommend being proactive by creating 301 redirects to any page you already know is no longer there. Then, each week check your Google Analytics Dashboard plugin to find out if there were any ‘Page Not Found’ results returned. It will tell you which pages couldn’t be located, you use Redirection to set up a new redirect to the right page, and you’re all done. No more frustrated website visitors and it’ll help your SEO, too.
- Beaver Builder – I like to recommend this plugin to clients who either don’t have the budget for a web developer or want to do updates and additions on their own. Beaver Builder is a drag-and-drop building plugin that allows you to quickly create fancy-looking webpages with no knowledge of coding, graphic design, or anything techy. There are lots of good webpage builder plugins, but in my experience Beaver Builder is the absolute easiest to use for those with no web development knowledge at all.
In fact, my 8-year old daughter was able to figure out how to use it pretty fast, so if you need a little help getting your site to look great, this is the plugin you want.
Those core plugins will help you build an amazing site. Want to take it a step further, though? Check out these bonus plugins to help you with marketing:
- Pixel Caffeine – If you use Facebook ads, then your website must have a Facebook Pixel. First, I DO highly recommend Facebook Ads if they are in your nonprofit’s budget. Like it or not, Facebook has in recent years changed how they operate so that for those with business/nonprofit pages, you must pay to reach most of your followers, which is where Facebook Ads come in. They are powerful for getting your message out to those who already follow you as well as reaching new audiences.
But they won’t work without a little line of code called a pixel, which helps track how many users saw your ad on facebook and then clicked through to your website. In the past, if you were uncomfortable with coding, you would give this little line of code to your web developer and they would install it on every applicable page of your website.
Thankfully that’s no longer necessary. Just install Pixel Caffeine on your WordPress website and with one click your Facebook Pixel will be installed on every page throughout your site, helping you track the effectiveness of your ad campaigns and optimize to engage more people.
- HelloBar – HelloBar allows you to create a small horizontal bar at the top of your website which entices people to opt-in to your email or newsletter list. HelloBar tracks how many people opt in, integrates easily with your email service provider, and allows you to A/B Split Test your bars so you know which ones work best with your audience.
- A plugin to connect your site with your email marketing provider – If you aren’t already using email marketing to get in front of your audience, you should be. (If you don't know why it's a good idea, refer back to my Marketing Primer blog post). These days, all email service providers know that you need to be able to easily engage website visitors and get them to subscribe. To make that easier, they almost all have WordPress plugins to help you integrate your opt-ins with your website.
Just search the plugin database for the name of your email service provider and you’ll find what you need.
- PushCrew – PushCrew is another plugin that helps you stay top-of-mind with your audience. Install this on your website and when someone new visits your site they’ll be asked if they want to receive notifications from you. You can then send notifications to everyone who said’ yes’, telling them about your latest blog post, new events and classes, reminders about fundraising campaigns, and anything else you want them to know. PushCrew also tracks analytics to help you reach more people and even allows you to add graphics or photos to your notifications to catch people’s eye. Pretty cool, huh?
I hope you’ve found this useful. If you have, don’t forget to share it on your favorite social media platform.
Remember, that if you decide to build your website yourself and run into any roadblocks you can always contact me for advice or for service to resolve a specific problem. And I also have an eCourse called ArtsWeb coming out this fall that will walk you through the process of building a website yourself, give you access to myself and a community of other students for support, and you get lifetime access to the course so you can revisit it at any time needed.
Best of all, I’m still looking for a few beta testers! Beta testers get the course for $100 (over 80% off) and the only thing I ask is that they give me feedback so I can improve it before rolling it out to the public. If you’re interested, please get in touch with me!