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How Smart Marketers Use WordPress for Business Like a Boss

wordpress-for-business* While this post was originally written in 2013, Alastair did a complete rewrite in 2015 to make sure that the Mirasee Audience has access to up-to-date information!

Imagine that you’re hosting a dinner party where you really need to make an impression.

You’ve been busy rushing around preparing your signature three course meal, setting the table with your good dishes, making sure the lighting is appropriately mellow.

You know your guests are arriving any minute – but you’re good to go – everything is perfect.

As you open the front door to your guests, you happen to glance down and notice that you’re wearing the wrong shoes and your socks don’t match!

Odds are that no one will even notice, but it knocks your confidence right out.

That feeling sucks.

You wanted  to welcome  your guests confidently; wearing your best to highlight all the hard work you’ve been doing and make the experience as pleasant and memorable as possible.

But you can’t forget about your shoes and socks.

As a website owner, just like a dinner host, there can be an awful lot to keep track of!

And small mistakes – even ones that most other people don’t notice, can have a bad impact on you and the overall impression that you make.

You wouldn’t want to greet your guests in bad shoes and socks – and your WordPress blog shouldn’t greet your readers without a clean appearance and smooth functionality – on the front end OR the backend. But what do you need in order to know you’ve got it all under control?

Here are some tips and lists to help you keep your WordPress website running smoothly, like a boss, so you can be free to focus on what you’re really great at – serving your customers…

Five Essentials Your Website Must Get Right

There are some general points that apply to all websites, WordPress and otherwise. These are the kinds of things you need to have in order to be taken seriously at all – and you’ve probably got all of them down pat – so I’ll just go over them quickly before getting into the cool plugins and other helpful stuff.

  1. Does your site have a professional appearance, and work in a variety of different browsers?
    Some people just know, but if you’re not sure, get some other opinions.
  2. Does your site have a professional appearance on mobile and other devices like tablets?
    I strongly recommend using a responsive design – there are some arguments both for and against this approach, but the positives outweigh the negatives and responsive design is fast becoming a new standard for websites. With Google’s latest changes it’s essential. Test your site for mobile-friendliness here.
  3. Does your Home page have a clear purpose and call-to-action?
    Does your home page ask the visitor to Sign Up, or Buy Now, or Find Out More, in a clear unambiguous manner? If you’re not sure, start out by having them sign up to your email list and figure out your best call-to-action.
  4. Do you have an informative and interesting About Us page?
    After the homepage, the About Us page is typically the most visited page on a website, so make yours professional and engaging.
  5. Do you have a Blog, and is it updated regularly with content relevant to your customers?
    If it’s infrequently updated, first consider removing the dates from the posts (here’s a quick tutorial on how to do that!), and next start thinking about blogging more frequently!

A Single Change That Can Get You 40% More Visitors

Is your site loading quickly enough? How long do visitors need to wait for typical pages to load? The faster the better; even minor changes can add up!

It’s good for your SEO, and better for your visitors – stats show that 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, and a 1 second delay can result in a 7% drop in conversions!

Slow load times can be caused by too many (or too large) images on a page, bad web hosting, bad coding, or even too many plugins. Compressing and resizing your images with kraken.io or webresizer is a great start. If you suspect a plugin is slowing your site, see the section below!

Advanced tip: you can get a detailed picture of your site loading time to help track down problems. See this website performance optimisation case study for more options in speeding up your site.

Do You Have Nice URLs (aka Permalinks)?

Does your blog exist at www.example.com/blog and your about us page at www.example.com/about-us, or are you stuck with a default www.example.com/?p=1431 in the address bar?

If so, set your permalinks – I recommend “Post name only“. (Advanced: if you set a custom structure of /blog/%postname% you can have your blog posts appearing off www.example.com/blog, while your regular pages appear off www.example.com/ – it’s a bit of a hack but it’s worked for years).

The Plugins You Absolutely Want to be Using

I’m often asked “how many is too many plugins”?

The answer is simple: one bad plugin is too many!

The secret to using a lot of plugins for your business WordPress site is to add them one at a time, and get familiar with them and how your website and hosting react.

As a rule of thumb, I like to keep it under 20 active plugins, even down as low as 3-4 when possible. (Advanced: check your plugin performance with Plugin Performance Profiler).

For your security, always get plugins from the WordPress.org plugins website unless it’s a premium plugin you’ve bought from the creators – using the plugin search directly from your WordPress install automatically does this.

Here are the plugin categories I consider “essential”, and some options for each one.

SEO

It’s nice to have a plugin that takes care of the small SEO details that can be tricky. Many themes claim to be SEO-friendly, but very few theme designers have the depth of SEO knowledge that the top SEO plugin creators have, so I always use a plugin. I recommend Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin, and another good alternative is All-in-One SEO plugin.

Contact Form

I like to offer an easy way for site visitors to send me a message without forcing them to open an email client or risking my email to spambots. I love Contact Form 7, which has a really simple contact form out-of-the-box, but also gives you the option to create detailed questionnaires to get all those important details from prospects. (Advanced: Really Simple CAPTCHA adds CAPTCHA functionality).

Anti-spam

All bloggers know the pain of dealing with spam comments – the installed-by-default Akismet is a great solution. It’s no longer free for commercial use, so you can also consider a simple but effective alternative like Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin, or even a full blown commenting solution like LiveFyre (which I prefer to Disqus because LiveFyre writes the comments to your database).

Caching

My first tip on caching is that it’s better to have high quality hosting with no caching plugin (i.e. a professionally setup VPS) than low quality hosting and a caching plugin.

But many people are starting out on shared hosting so a caching plugin can help increase site performance. Here’s what I recommend to those folks: the two big guns of the caching plugin arena are W3 Total Cache, and WP Super Cache. Both are good, and I’d recommend both equally.

I’ll also add that I’ve had difficulty using caching plugins with membership sites and any kind of protected content – in those situations it’s far more important to have good hosting.

Advanced tip: if you’re running your own server (e.g. VPS) then nginx with batcache can provide extremely fast WordPress performance as it cuts out MySQL which is normally the bottleneck in speed terms. You can sometimes get even speed more if you use HHVM rather than PHP.

Backup

A lot of people use WordPress plugins for backup so I’ll mention that here. I recommend that a WordPress plugin is not your only method of backup, because if something goes wrong with WordPress, your site doesn’t get backed up!

Personally, I use a service called CodeGuard which backs up all of my website files and databases every day, and can even email me a list of changed files.

If you do want to use a WordPress plugin, ensure that it backs up both parts of your site – the files and database – on a scheduled basis, and (very important) you also need to ensure it doesn’t fill up your entire hosting disk quota within a week or two. To avoid this, be sure that it deletes older backups automatically!

There are a few different options available; my favorite options are BackWPup and BackUpWordPress – just remember to check the schedule and keep an eye on disk usage! (Advanced: WordPress Backup to Dropbox needs a little more setup, but you get offsite backup, which is really nice.)

Other Useful Plugins

I really like the following plugins, which either provide a better experience to the visitor, or make life easier for the site owner:

Broken Link Checker

This plugin emails you when it finds broken links (note: this is a server intensive plugin, so if you find your site running a bit slower, consider switching it off again).

Subscribe To Comments

This plugin allows visitors get email updates about replies to their comments.

Thank Me Later

This plugin sends thank you email to commenters at a scheduled time period after their comment.

Twitter Embed

This plugin easily embed tweets in your posts and pages by posting the tweet URL on a line by itself.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

This plugin creates a list of relevant posts at the bottom of the current one.

Feedburner

This plugin provides some nice options for RSS feed management.

SyntaxHighlighter Evolved

This plugin displays code with nice formatting, which is great for geeks like me.

How to Avoid Having Your Website Hacked (90% of Site Owners Don’t Do This)

This one is simple: update your WordPress, Plugins and Themes regularly. Go ahead and put a weekly item in your calendar to log in and click the update button.

Some people are wary of breaking their site with an update. However, it’s almost always better to update when you see the update icon than not to update.

Let me say that again: it is almost always better to update when you see the update icon.

The only exceptions are if you know for sure something on your site is incompatible and will break, or if your web developer told you specifically not to update (and if they did tell you that, ask them why and get a second opinion on it)!

I see WordPress sites that haven’t been updated in years – it’s hugely insecure; in fact you’re almost guaranteed to get your website hacked. It also means you’re missing out on new features. So keep WordPress updated regularly.

Advanced tip: Use a test site in parallel with your live site and test changes there first. Ideally you should have a staging or test site that you’re running in parallel to your “live” site, with all the same plugins and themes, and you test the update there first. Most web developers will set this up as part of a web design project so ask them to leave it in place for you to use when they’re finished with the project.

If you don’t have one, you can create it yourself. Here’s a quick overview: create a subdomain called “dev” in your hosting control panel, install WordPress on it, export your posts and pages with Tools – Export, Import on the new WordPress site, and install the same theme and plugins.

Set “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” to on in the Settings-Reading option screen on the dev site (but not the live site). You can now test plugins and updates on your dev site before the live site.

Advanced tip: I like to follow 4-5 days behind on major updates to avoid bugs often encountered by early adopters, so if I see WordPress 5.0 released, then I’d hang on for a few days to see if a v5.0.1 was forthcoming (and if it is, I’d update to that immediately).

Always update Plugins when there’s a new version available.

Inactive plugins can still be a security risk so make sure to update them if you have any that you haven’t removed (which I recommend doing).

Update the built-in themes (TwentyFourteen, etc) when available unless you have customized them and you are not sure whether or not you are using a child theme (you generally should always be using a child theme).

Check with your developer or local WordPress expert if you’re not sure.

3 Simple Ways to Fix Problems Yourself (and Avoid Calling In an Expensive Web Developer)

If you do run into trouble after updating WordPress, here’s how to troubleshoot some common issues.

First, check if it’s the theme

  1. Switch to a different theme (e.g. TwentyFourteen) temporarily to see if your theme is the problem (don’t worry, your customizations and settings will be saved for when you switch back to your regular theme).
  2. If your site works with the new theme, then your theme is broken somehow – time to talk to the theme author or a WordPress expert. If the site doesn’t work, move on to the next step.

Next, debug your plugins

  1. Disable all your plugins and see if that solves the problem.
  2. If it does, start re-enabling them one-by-one.
  3. When you encounter the problem again – then the last one you switched on is the culprit.
  4. Look for a fix on the plugin forum, or delete and replace it with another.

If you’re still getting problems after changing to a default theme and disabling all your plugins then it’s time to contact your hosting company and ask if there are other issues that could be causing the problem.

Getting a “White screen of death” where you can’t log in?

If you can’t access the WordPress admin dashboard and instead you see a blank white screen, try following the solution in this video.

WordPress is an incredibly powerful and flexible system that offers almost infinite possibilities. If you follow these tips you’ll be using it like an expert in no time at all!

Agree, disagree, or want to share an awesome plugin? Please let me know your tips for getting the most out of WordPress for your business via the comments below!

About Alastair McDermott

Alastair McDermott is an online business and technology consultant specialising in helping B2B and professional services businesses to sell more online. With a background in software, web design & development, internet marketing and search engine optimisation, he has been building websites and software since 1996 and is a ten year veteran of using WordPress. Alastair blogs, and makes media of all kinds at WebsiteDoctor. Follow him on Twitter at @WebsiteDoctor

88 thoughts on “How Smart Marketers Use WordPress for Business Like a Boss

  1. Hey Danny Inn,
    Another lovely post as usual, I have just discovered some amazing plugins to help my new freelancing blog and this post essentially is what most newbie out there needs.
    thanks so much, See you at the top.

    • This was actually a guest post, but it’s not particularly clear until you know what to look for (ie at the start it says “In Guest Appearances” and the end says “Tagged as: Guest Appearances”) This is one aspect of this site I wish was clearer. Personally I like it when blogs, if posting a guest post by someone else, have something at the start that says it’s a guest post, by who, who they are and an image of them. This way when you read an article, you have in mind the person who wrote it, and what perspective they’re coming from. Currently I’m in the habit of looking for the Guest Appearances category and, if it’s there, scrolling to the end to read their bio, then scrolling back up to the start to read the article.

      Anyway, nice article Alistair. Some useful plugin recommendations, and the tip about waiting to see if there’s a bug / security fix release after a major version is right on the money.

      • Hey Olatunji and Piers,

        Thank you both for the compliments.

        Piers, I think that’s some good feedback on hi-lighting guest posts to give to the guys here at FM, and I would tend to agree with you on it.

        That said, they’re far more experienced with guest posting than I (this is the first guest post I’ve ever written) so there might be some good rationale for why they do things this way.

        In any case – thanks for your comment 🙂
        Alastair.

  2. Great post! You managed to cram in so much value and good advice in that one article.

    Thanks also for linking out to that video, ‘Fixing a Broken website’, it’s such a common problem for people regularly using WordPress but can be pretty straight forward to fix when you know how.

  3. Alistair:

    What a great primer. I have several of my readers who are just starting their blogs. I’ll be sending them to this post.

    And I learned about some new plugins I need to co check out! very useful. Thanks.

  4. This is an amazing post! I have a WordPress blog, but not my own website. There are a lot of things I need to learn before doing so, and now I have been informed of MORE things I need to consider. Thanks for enlightening me about the responsibilities involved in owning a website!

  5. Hi folks,

    Thanks for the comments (and compliments!) – much appreciated.

    If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment and I’ll be delighted to address them!

    Cheers,
    Alastair.

  6. Wow! So much great information!

    I totally get the first part, but I got honestly got lost in the techno-speak at the end. This is why I hired the world’s best web designer (at least by my standards), Adam Haroun at DrBrand.ca. He’s a frigging genius. Not only does he come up with incredible logos and graphic design stuff, but he also GETS marketing. He gets that it’s not just about the appearance of the website, but how it actually converts readers into clients. Check him out! :]

  7. Alastair,

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been driven to distraction about the pace at which my WordPress site it loading. I ran webpagetest and got an idea of what’s slowing things down.

    Thanks again for this.
    M

  8. SO useful. Thank you for this information. I use some of the plugins but see how others can solve some of my web site frustrations! I do have a question though…

    I’m hosting the same workshop in multiple cities this summer. Do you know of a plugin that will accommodate this? I’d like buyers to just pick their city from a drop-down list and then click “register” to buy a ticket for the event closest to them.

    • Hi Jessica,

      I don’t know of a plugin that will help with this issue, sorry! The only thing I’d say to you is that quite often there are plugins available that will help with specific issues, but they were actually created to do something else and your desired functionality is a side-effect.

      Also, there are many ways to describe different issues, so there might be something out there using different terminology than you’d expect.

      Good luck with the search, and perhaps another reader here will have a solution for you 🙂

      Cheers,
      Alastair.

  9. I use the Yoast SEO plugin. But the problem with it is that it does NOT create DIFFERENT titles and descriptions when you use the nextpage feature for pages. Is here anyone who has already solved this problem?

    Albert

  10. Hi Danny,

    A good list of plugins, and perhaps also nice to know is that of all websites, 11% runs on WordPress.

    I use it for clients all the time. But now comes the problem: how do you maintain 25+ client websites? Is there a way you can keep them all updated at once? Or do you need to everything manually (quite a tedius task)?

    • Hi Frank,

      As Piers suggested, multi-site is a good option, although perhaps a little complex for some folks.

      There is another option, which is to use a 3rd party monitoring system. How it works in principle is you install a monitoring “worker” plugin on all 25 sites which talks to an account on a central server that you create for yourself. From that one account, you can manage updates, comments, etc.

      There are two options that I know of, both of which I use:

      WP Remote: https://wpremote.com
      ManageWP: http://managewp.com

      WP Remote is free, but limited in functionality – you still need to log into the managed sites individually to make changes (using a quick link from the management account).

      ManageWP requires a monthly fee, but is almost 100% hands-free management. You can click a single “Update All” button, which is awesome 🙂

      For 25 sites I think ManageWP will cost you around $25/month – but please confirm that for yourself in case they’ve changed that since I wrote this reply.

      Hope that helps!
      Alastair.

        • Hi Mike,

          WordPress Multisite is great, I’m a big fan!

          It allows you to put numerous websites on a single base install of WordPress. That means you only have to upgrade WordPress one time when a new version comes out, update plugins once, etc.

          You can also set restrictions for your sub-sites so that they can only use a certain amount of disc space, only the plugins you allow, etc. That allows you greater control and security over a network of stand-alone WordPress sites.

          I’m going to write a blog post about WordPress Multisite in the next few weeks over at WebsiteDoctor.com – I’ll ping you here when I do!

          Cheers,
          Alastair.

  11. Danny,

    This is probably the most valuable blog post I have read this week! Excellent tips! I was shocked to find out how long time it takes to load for my blog.

    Ava

  12. Thank you Alastair for this informative post!

    Can having a lot of plug-ins slow down your website? I don’t think I have 20 plug-ins, but I think my site could be faster and possibly use an SEO expert to give a once over to make sure I’m maximizing SEO. What about your hosting company? If you’re on a shared server, will that slow your website down?

    You mentioned the permalinks. What happens if you started your blog in 2008 and you were new to blogging and didn’t know that you could have the Post name only. Do you leave your blog alone or somehow try to fix the permalinks? This seems like a daunting project.

    Thanks again.

    • I’m not Alastair, but in short, they can… but don’t necessarily.

      Every active plugin takes some resources, but some of them put those resources to making your site load even faster! As a general rule though, if a plugin isn’t specifically designed to speed up your site, it’s probably slowing it sown, just a little (or in some cases where it’s major functionality, or badly written a LOT…. but then that’s why you use professionally tested and recommended plugin lists like this one, to avoid those.)

    • Hi Amandah,

      Yes, having a lot of plugins can definitely slow down your site. One thing I’d do if you don’t already is run a caching plugin like Hyper Cache, WP-Supercache or W3 Total Cache (my preference is now that particular order).

      If you’re on a shared server that is over-crowded (like most of the big-name companies these days) then your site can be slowed down (or “throttled” by the host). I recommend switching hosting to elsewhere.

      With your older permalinks, it’s easy to change from an old permalink style to a new one using some “rewrite rules” in a .htaccess file. If you’re not techie you should hire someone to do it, it should be a 15 minute job.

      Hope that helps.

      Cheers,
      Alastair.

  13. Some very good tips in this article Alastair.

    I might suggest to anyone that is in the process of building their site, keep notes on what you added or changed and when, such as plug-ins. If you then find one of your previously applied plug-ins not working all of a sudden, with the notes, you will be able to back track what you most recently added or changed and find the problem plug-in much quicker.

    I had this exact problem about a year ago and wrote about it on my blog. Some plug-ins just don’t “play nice” with others.

  14. Hey Danny – great post. Curious to know your thoughts about Scribe SEO. You mentioned WordPress SEO by Yoast (which I also use). In your opinion, do I need both to publish a successful blog?

    • Seshu,
      I was doing a lot of SEO work for clients and subscribed to Scribe. It integrates with All in One SEO (that’s what I use) and I believe, the Yoast SEO plugin. At the time I subscribed, it was $47 a month. Now I think it might be $99. I invested in it because I could recoup the money from my clients. It scores the relevancy of content, keyword searches and social media relevance, so it’s more than just the title, description and keywords. In my humble opinion, you don’t need both to drive traffic to your blog. It’s a nice tool, but it’s pricey.

    • As Jackie mentioned below, Scribe SEO is a bit pricey. Personally, I tried it in the very early days and I wasn’t blown away by it so I didn’t continue to use it. However, that was a long time ago and it may have been significantly improved by now, so it might be worth risking a few bucks to give it a go.

  15. Hey Seshu!
    Since I use also WordPress SEO by Yoast I have a question to you which I already mentioned above, but I repeat it here:
    When you use with this plugin the nextpage feature for long pages to divide them into more than one page, the plugin does NOT deliver DIFFERENT titles and descriptions. Do you use this feature and how did you solve this problem? Would be nice if you could help me.

  16. Danny, I know some things I’d like to change on my website, but I don’t have the faintest idea how. On my wordpress website, I think I’d have to go to a paid website to get plugins. My finances are low; I am waiting to hear something this month. I have not heard from my webmaster; I don’t know what’s going on and am not sure what to do about it. Dr. Bob Sr. said, “You can borrow brains, but not character.” I need to borrow a lot of brains. I think my computer expert went south for the winter. I’ll try to contact him again.

    • Forums are your friend. As long as you describe your problems clearly, and precisely (what software versions are you using? What error messages are visible? Can you add a screenshot of the problem?) you’ll usually be able to get free help from the community. In this case, thats the forum at WordPress.org.

      Just remember to give more than you ask for, to become an asset to the community instead of a liability. Answer any questions people ask that you know an answer to. Encourage other people just starting out. Be grateful and express it publicly to the people who help you out. You know, the usual look out for other people where you can, thing. 🙂

      At the start when you know less, it’s normal to run up a bit of a deficit. The trick is to remember that after learning a few things, and to still check back in on the new users.

      • Hey Lynn, Piers,

        Thanks for the comments. I agree 100% with Piers – there’s some great help available out there so long as you accurately describe the problem(s). People want to help – it’s in our nature to feel good when we help others 🙂

        Cheers,
        Alastair.

  17. Wow, great information (and a stellar guest post)! I ran the web page tester as soon as I got to that point in the post, and it was an eye-opener. Then you pointed to all these tools to fix the problem. Thank you so much.

  18. this is a great resource, especially the plugins! I’ll be referring back to this. As for the website tips, I ‘know’ a lot of these already but don’t necessarily do them or implement them. I know elegant themes and genesis have some responsive design. So I would recommend investing on them rather than try to create something responsive from scratch. And the dinner party scenario just makes me stressed out and nervous.

  19. Alistair, for those of us in the Audience Business Masterclass, could you add these links (and any others you use) to the Resources doc? And anyone who is not in the ABM – check it out. Great stuff.

    • Hi Sharon,

      I’m not in the ABM so I can’t add the links, but I’m sure someone from FPM can do it 🙂

      I can supply the links in spreadsheet format if that’s useful to anyone.

      Cheers,
      Alastair.

  20. Alastair this is a great post, very well written. I LOVE the Yoast SEO plugin, it’s way better than All in One. Thank you for sharing the plugin performance tester plugin, I’m running it on my sites right now. Plugins are cool and can do so many things but sometimes I think I need to figure out how to do the thing on my own without a plugin, to improve load times. I suppose it depends on how hard it is to do.

  21. Wow,

    Great resources you shared! Many of these I use but some I’ve never heard and intend to check them out!of but!

    LOL plugins can be ‘dangerous’ once you start ‘collecting’ them on your site and forget to deactivate!

    Thanks for reminding me to ‘purge’ my current ‘collection’ … 🙂
    Appreciate the time you invested here as well …Thanks

    TJ

  22. This is such a detailed WordPress resource, thank you for compiling this handy guide and sharing it. I’ve been wondering how to remove the date from my posts, and curious about loading times. And plugin performance? I never considered doing this one at all. I appreciate all the info!

  23. A very useful post. WordPress is really the system anyone wanting to blog or build a site will find encouraging as it involves little or no technical knowledge. You have featured a very useful list of plugins and they all come free. New comers to WordPress will find the post really helpful. Looking forward to more on the subject.

  24. Thank you for this! I’m new to WordPress, so this link will be bookmarked for future use. The only difficulty I’ve had with WordPress is adding the buttons like “follow me” or a button which will sign you up to a newsletter etc (I’ve worked round it by adding a link to the sign up form but eh, it’s not good). Other than that, it appears to be working more smoothly than another big provider ever did.

  25. This is a great post!

    I’ll just add a couple points:

    1. About the WordPress updates: You really *do* need to wait for that first “tweak and fix “update release before jumping in- usually it comes out pretty quickly, but it can be longer than a week. The reason this is so important is that many plugins will need to issue their own updates in response. Often they won’t initially work with the new release. I can tell you from experience, it really pays to wait a bit.

    2. The only thing I see missing from this list is a security plugin. The best is Bulletproof security. Hackers are getting really sophisticated these days and you may not even realize your site was hacked (until some reader kindly informs you that your site is pimping Viagra. It’s happened to me and it’s not a pleasant experience). If you want to see if your site is clean, you can go to http://sucuri.net/ They offer a free site scan.

  26. Alastair,

    I have to say a big thank you (again!). Smush.it turned out to be awesome! You also got me into the world of SEO. I had tried to figure it out, but Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin helped me to figure out a lot!

    Ava

    • Delighted to hear it, Ava.

      SEO is a wonderful world, it’s on on the one hand so simple, and on the other extremely complex. Ultimately if you’re creating good content – striving to be the best in your niche – then you’ll rank well. Don’t take shortcuts or try to fool the search engines.

      Good luck with it 🙂

  27. Hi – thanks for a really helpful post full of goodies. I plan to check out some of the backup plugins you recommend, also the broken link checker.

    I use All in One SEO – I did look into Yoast because a lot of people rave about it, but found the settings a bit complicated, so decided to stick with what I know.

    Regarding third party commenting systems such as Disqus and Livefyre, I did a post on my blog recently about these and from the comments I received it seems a lot of people find them very off-putting – must admit the first time I ever tried to leave a comment on a Livefyre blog I gave up because I was uneasy about signing up to a service I knew nothing about.

    I’m a big fan of the CommentLuv plugin – the free version’s pretty good but I’ve now invested in the premium version and love it – it includes a ReplyMe function, to help notify people when you reply to their comments.

    Sue

    • Thanks for the contribution, Sue. I do like using the native commenting system too, but for some people the management of spam comments becomes just too much, so they turn to one of the 3rd party systems. But if the native system works for you, and particularly if you’re able to use something like CommentLuv (which I like, but haven’t use the premium version) then that’s awesome. (I use the Subscribe to Comments plugin to provide the notification functionality).

  28. Hi Alastair,

    Thanks for collecting great wisdom on WP. I was inspired by Danny’s program to start Guest Blogging…

    One question … Would you suggest any plugin that allows me to have visitors give me an email+name, allow me to confirm email, then send them a report? Something I could put in the sidebar….?

    Thanks – especially for ‘SyntaxHighlighter Evolved’…

    Brij

    • Hi Brij,

      What you’re asking for here really is an opt-in plugin. On my site (linked in my name) I currently use Popup Domination, which does an attractive popup in a lightbox – but also comes with “Sidebar Domination” which does a sidebar widget.

      However, I am thinking about switching away from this plugin for two reasons: 1) I’m not happy with the support, and 2) I want to go for something less obtrusive than a lightbox popup.

      I’ve just purchased Gravity Forms, which I want to use for some more complex “wizard-style” forms on my site, but I see that it also comes with connectivity options for MailChimp, Aweber, etc, so I think this could be a good option for me in the future.

      I’ve also used a really simple, bare-bones plugin called “WP Opt-In” on some sites in the past. It does what it says on the tin and manages the whole subscriber list within WordPress. It needs some work in terms of styling to make it look pretty.

      I hope that’s of use, please ask away if you have more questions!
      Alastair.

      • Hi Alastair,

        Many thanks for an informative response. I’ll check out all three plugins that you mentioned.

        In response to another response – who OTHER than GoDaddy would you recommend?

        Thanks
        Brij

        • Hi Brij,

          For US and European hosting I use medialayer for my own sites, but be warned, they are pricey. I find the performance and support incredible, and there is no question of them over-selling (i.e. putting too many sites on one server). I highly recommend them.

          In Europe I also like http://www.Blacknight.com for hosting or domains – (they’re also an ICANN accredited registrar).

          Which brings me nicely on to domain registration: I like and use http://www.Namecheap.com for most of my domains, and I recommend an ICANN accredited registrar, with the previously mentioned exception of GoDaddy. Here’s a list – https://www.icann.org/registrar-reports/accredited-list.html – whoever you pick for domains, remember that your domain is the single most important component of your website, and research the company first, look for customer reviews, complaints and resolutions, etc.

          Cheers,
          Alastair.

          • Hey Alastair,

            You’re are a font of great information! I am checking out your hosting recommendations already.

            And – for your first guest post – this is a MEGA home run! I’m saving the whole thing as a reference.

            Brij

  29. Forgive my naivete, but I have a more basic question.

    My online presence is LinkedIn at the moment, but I’m
    getting ready to create both a website and a blog.
    So here’s the $64 million question:

    Why is using a WordPress website or blog the best option for your business?

    There are many website creation choices on the market, but as someone
    who’s just starting out I haven’t been in the business long enough to
    appreciate all the advantages everyone talks about. Why not use
    GoDaddy.com or some other free/low cost service?

    Thanks in advance for your response. Hopefully, anyone else who has
    similar thoughts will benefit greatly from your advice. Have an
    AWESOME weekend!

    • Hi Michael,

      Great questions. The number one reason to use your own website is control. Build it on your own domain name that you own, and it’s yours. Build it elsewhere, then you lose control if they decide to shut it down or move it or change it in a way you don’t agree with.

      There are loads of examples of this – Geocities being shut down, Google Wave or Google Reader most recently, just gone, Facebook changing their terms and pricing for advertisers, etc.

      So I always recommend: 1) on your domain, 2) preferably on an open-source CMS like WordPress (or Drupal or Joomla, if that’s your thing). I use these systems because they are several orders of magnitude more powerful than light-weight website build wizards provided by hosting companies.

      An in particular, I don’t use or recommend GoDaddy because I have concerns about their business ethics and about some issues I’ve seen where website owners may have had difficulties with retaining ownership of domains they’ve registered.

      I hope that answers your question, please leave a reply if I can clarify anything further for you 🙂

      Cheers,
      Alastair.

  30. I’m fairly new to your site/business, but have already come to anticipate learning something important with every post. This one was chock-full (gonna read it 3 more times 🙂

  31. Over the weekend I have received three similar notices of posts. Alistair yours is among the best but one challenge – “professional”? I remember years ago when Dreamweaver was taking off, people said that Frontpage was amateur and lazy. Then it moved to HTML and javascript. Then to content management like WordPress. And within WordPress, there are so MANY choices as to what makes something professional. Personally, I want to know if the material is useful to me and the writing makes sense so I can share it with those that follow me and know that it adds value to them. MANY people have great information and are undiscovered. MANY people promote better than others.
    But getting off my high horse – the plugins you suggest are spot on and some of the paid ones like CommentLuv and Premise are great additions to any business. (Note not website but business) Your website is a tool for your business. And good tools make you professional especially if you use them well

    • Hi Roberta,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure I understand the challenge “professional” – can you clarify what you’re talking about there? If it’s in terms of whether the plugins are professionally written, one thing I’d to is see how old they are, how often they’re updated, if there is a premium version available, and how many downloads they have. Those are usually good indicators of quality and professionalism.

      Hope that helps, and if I can answer further please leave a comment below.

      Thanks,
      Alastair.

  32. This was a great article.

    The only plugins I would add would be some security plugins. I use two (well three…)

    Limit Login Attempts: http://devel.kostdoktorn.se
    This plugin does exactly what it says, it limits login attempts so that hackers can’t brute force your accounts and hack your site as easily. This week one of my sites blocked a Chinese IP twice for attempting to hack my admin account. Scary to think if it worked!

    This is by Website Defender, and they do spend a lot of effort in the plugin trying to sell you their services, but it does help you make sure the WP installation is secure. I also use their security scan plugin for the same reason.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Great point. I don’t normally run a security plugin – instead, I do five things: 1) make sure everything (core, plugins, themes) is up to date, 2) have a very secure and unique password for every site (I use Keepass to store these, others recommend Lastpass etc), 3) I don’t use “admin” as a username, 4) I use a random string in the database prefix (e.g. “wp_g2rdr1x1pl_”), and 5) put the wp-config.php file in a non web accessible location (one directory back from the web root).

      I find that those steps tend to keep my site secure. But I do think it’s time for me to take another look at security plugins like the ones you’ve suggested to see what’s available and see if I should recommend them

      Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.
      Alastair.

  33. We run a non-profit website that we would like to utilize pictures from facebook. I have tried several different plug-ins that only allow for one individual album to be viewed at a time. Is there a plug-in you have found or someone else has found that allows you to select from multiple albums at a time for your website?

    • Hey Scott,

      I haven’t tried to do this before, but it looks like there’s two plugins that might do what you need, either Facebook Photo Fetcher or Facebook Page Photo Gallery. Are these the ones you’ve tried?

      Alastair.

  34. Great recommendations in this article. Running a lean WordPress website also minimizes the chance of a plugin or theme conflict. Also take a look at the GTMetrix service. It will run some tests on your site and return recommendations for speeding it up.

  35. Hi folks,

    Just a heads-up regarding two things I mentioned above:

    1) The caching plugins I mentioned were recently found to have a potential security vulnerability – they’re still good, they just need to be updated to the latest versions.
    2) Update, update, update. I’ll just reinforce this point. Always update your plugins when you need a new version available. Use ManageWP or WP Remote for help with this if you’ve got a lot of WordPress installs.

    If you have any questions, hit reply in the comments here.

    Cheers,
    Alastair.

  36. I’ve only just come across this blog in doing some research and found it really helpful. In particular the comments about the Yoast plugin have been useful too. Thanks for the great blog post!

    • Hey Suzy,

      Thanks for the feedback. I really like Yoast’s plugins because he’s committed to writing good code – he likes to do things the Right Way.

      If you have any other questions about the plugins or anything else on the post, leave a comment here and I’ll do my best to answer.

      Cheers,
      Alastair.

  37. Having less plugins mean a lot. One could be surprised by the amount of load those external scripts put on your website. I use the P3 plugin too and often check how much load the plugins put on my site’s loading time – and the results are usually surprising. And its very true that a slow loading time badly hits conversions!

  38. I wanted to post a quick message so as to say thanks to you for the magnificent advice you are posting on this site. My extended internet research has at the end been paid with good quality knowledge to go over with my great friends. I ‘d express that many of us website visitors actually are very blessed to be in a perfect network with very many special individuals with very helpful pointers. I feel extremely blessed to have seen the site and look forward to many more thrilling moments reading here. Thank you once more for a lot of things.

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