WordPress is an open source platform that powers (according to :.com) over 50% of the entire Internet, and 37% of of the top 10,000 websites. That is a lot of WordPress, but don’t let that dismay you from using it. There is a reason so many businesses choose to use WordPress, and it may be the right solution for your small business. One of the best features about WordPress is the fact that there are many plugins, which are pieces of functionality that can be added to a website with as little as a few clicks. Need some new feature to meet your business objectives? Chances are you’ll find a plugin that meets at least some of that goal. So which plugins are the best?
No, we aren’t going to just list / rank plugins here. Unlike most “WordPress Top X Lists” we are not here to show you who the popular kids are and suggest you only use their plugins, but rather we are going to look at a few categories of plugins you need to have installed and activated.
Your Small Business Needs a Form Plugin
Right off the bat, if your small business is using WordPress or is about to start using WordPress, do not forget about a contact form, it is crucial for any business to help with new leads, answer questions, or help with support. Most WordPress themes have a contact form of some sort built into them, but don’t be fooled, while these may work for a simple contact form, your small business needs a form plugin. Why? Form plugins are a great way to have a foundational piece of functionality that can ultimately help you grow as a company. Want to start advertising? A good landing page will have a form that is beyond just the contact form you have on your “Contact Us” page.
Do not launch or advertise your small business WordPress website without first installing and testing at least 1 contact form.
Our Recommendations: For a good all around plugin, check out Caldera Forms, it is a free drag & drop form builder plugin with many add-ons so it can help your business grow and meet your business objectives as it does. They offer an extensive documentation so if you need something custom done with a form or with the data, it can be programmed. Gravity Forms is a second pick, and is not a free plugin. Gravity Forms has been the most popular premium form plugin for a long time, and for good reason. Their API and action hooks make it easy for a developer to latch on and add functionality, while their drag & drop form builder is also very powerful.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization Plugin
Having a good SEO plugin is good for any site, whether you are planning to blog or not. Understanding how well your content works for a keyword you are hoping to rank for is going to help you write better content in the long run. While having the right meta tags and keywords alone won’t get you top ranking anymore, it is important to still have SEO in mind when writing and publishing any content on your website. Especially nowadays when social media is also factored into the equation of search engine results.
Our Recommendation: Yoast SEO has been the definitive “WordPress SEO plugin” for as long as we can remember. Their intuitive interface makes it easy to to quickly see how well you are doing in regards to keyword optimization of your page or post’s content. There are other alternatives out there nowadays, but as the algorithms change and it becomes hard to just rank for even the most long tail keywords, Yoast has kept up. Their current plugin even allows optimization across multiple keywords, and helps with optimizing your post or page appears when shared across social media.
Update We have been recommended WPSSO plugin. While we haven’t tried it yet, we have been told by those we trust that it gives you just as much (if not more control) than Yoast, and may be a viable competitor. If you haven’t tried either, you may want to try WPSSO and see how easy it is, and compare it to Yoast. We will be trying it on our next client built.
Social Sharing Plugin
The last necessary plugin we would say is needed is a social sharing plugin. Many themes have social sharing included, and that actually may be fine. However if you are going to take social media marketing seriously, you may want a little more analytics and data out of how and what people are sharing. If this is the case we recommend finding a tool that you like the best and if it has an accompanying WordPress plugin, install it. If it does not have an WordPress plugin that they support and maintain, you may want to look elsewhere since WordPress has such market share of the Internet.
Knowing what content is being shared can help you better understand what content you should be creating to get more shares and your name out there more. We use share data in conjunction with Google Analytics to get a better idea of the landscape of our website’s content.
Our Recommendation: We really like AddThis, their dashboard is easy to use and the analytics given are insightful in determining which content is being shared. The WordPress plugin is easy to get going and you don’t need an account with Addthis to get going with sharing, we recommend it just from a data gathering and analysis point of view. Note We should be doing a disservice if we didn’t mention that AddThis does add scripts for both the sharing functionality and analytics. So if you are very concerned about performance and do not utilize a CDN or other performance services, you may want to just opt for what is built into your theme and try adding some custom code for tracking with Google Analytics or EZData.
That is it. Were you expecting more?
A small business website doesn’t need to be some elaborately built application. Most small businesses are actually better off with a simple website so that potential customers can easily get the information they need. Whether that information is pricing, contact information, or even to get a quote. If you have a small business told be oversold with WordPress plugins that you don’t need, stick to the basics and grow your website with your business, don’t let an overly complicated website be detrimental and keep customers away.
If you feel we are missing a plugin or have another suggestion for a good plugin in any of the categories mentioned, leave it in the comments below. We will be updating this post as we find new and noteworthy plugins worthy of small business websites.