The Starter Suite of WordPress Plugins – All You Need for the Core of Your Site/Blog – 100% FREE!
[Latest Update: September 2018]
Got a new self-hosted WordPress site? Confused about plugins? Looking for the best WordPress Plugins for Blogs/Sites? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Did you know you can build a very professional, full featured site with nothing more than free plugins? Yep! You don’t have to spend beaucoup bucks on expensive paid solutions! The trick is knowing which ones to use. We can help with that. Read on…
Here at Web Marketing Services [WMS], we’re highly experienced WordPress consultants, developers and site builders. Everything we do online involves WordPress, in one way or another. In this report we’re going to show you what we consider to be the absolute best, most valuable and useful free plugins for WordPress, which we call the Starter Suite of WordPress Plugins.
We use The Suite for every site we build, whether it be one of our own sites, or for clients. You can use it as the foundation of your own WordPress site, or mine it for valuable components to help improve your setup. Either way, every plugin herein is linked to the WordPress Plugin Repository (or wherever it is found online), so there’s no roadblocks to getting started.
We’ll even show you how to upload the Starter Suite to your site with just one click! You can also download this free report as a PDF too, for future reference and convenience, if you so desire.
Many folks have told us that this report has been extremely valuable to them — saving them a lot of time and money — and we hope it will do the same for you. 🙂
Why Listen to Us? CLICK!
Here at WMS, we’ve been hardcore — some might say obsessed — dedicated users of WordPress for over ten years now. We’ve literally built HUNDREDS of sites and blogs over that time. Yeah, I said hundreds. Yikes. It’s true.
So if you’re stuck for help or confused, you can talk to us and we will be glad to help you. But that’s not what this post is about. What it’s about (duh) is the best WordPress plugins for blogs, based on our years of practice and experience.
Besides building hundreds of WordPress sites, blogs and storefronts over the last decade, we’ve also tried hundreds of plugins — and sadly, found the vast majority of them wanting!
Some were great, a few really good, most not so great and more than a few (sadly) really, really bad. Having done all this gives us a lot of experience from which to make informed judgments about WordPress themes, plugins and services.
The thing is, if you don’t already know or haven’t realized it yet, you can literally spend hundreds (if not thousands) of hours investigating plugins, trying plugins, fighting with plugins and quite often, dumping one plugin in a favor of another — ’cause you just found a better one! The entire process (and it can be an ongoing one) of finding the best free WordPress plugins can be extremely frustrating, aggravating and taxing.
So, in the spirit of helping others save enormous amounts of time and effort and benefit from our expertise, we decided to compile our Starter Suite. We hope you like it, and use it in good (site) health.
Free WordPress Plugins – Problems and the Solutions
As you probably know, you can find thousands of free and freemium plugins at the WordPress Plugin Repository. That’s great, but it’s also a big problem. You’ve probably encountered it yourself, which may explain why you’re here.
We’re going to show our top picks for the most important, critical categories of WordPress plugins. These are:
- Best Free WordPress Security Plugin
- Best Free WordPress SEO Plugin
- Best Free WordPress Cache Plugin
- Best Free WordPress Backup Plugin
- Best Free WordPress Image Compression Plugin
- Best Free WordPress Analytics Plugin
- And more…
This is going to be a big help to you, because the trouble is, finding a plugin to solve a particular problem is a problem in and of itself! Not least of which because a newbie doesn’t necessarily know what he doesn’t know.
The simple truth is, for most categories of WordPress plugin, there’s just too many for a beginner to choose from! And even then, assuming you find “the solution” to your problem, “the solution” itself can pose even more problems! Technical issues. Compatibility issues. Third party issues…
Many (even most) plugins look good. Many are rated roughly the same. Many have lots of users.
Q: How’s a tyro supposed to make an educated decision on WordPress plugins?
A: He (or she) can’t. It’s just not possible.
As a result, you can spend days, weeks, months… even years… trying out one WordPress plugin after another… in a seemingly fruitless quest to figure out which single one is the “the best.” Ugh. It’s draining just thinking about it, because it’s a road we’ve been down too many times ourselves. We know the syndrome all too well.
Furthermore, if you go afield and start asking for input, the reality is that most folks recommending one plugin or another are not the best people to listen to. It’s not that they’re lying or trying to deceive you. It’s just that they really don’t have the framework and background from which to make a qualified judgment! Quite often, you’ll run across someone who has only used one caching plugin who emphatically declares that the one plugin they know is “the best.”
Unfortunately, it probably isn’t. They simply don’t know any different. Or better.
Fortunately, we do.
In over ten years of working with WordPress, we’ve tried virtually every major in-category plugin out there — and many more to boot. Better still, we’ve tried said plugins in a wide variety of circumstances, in combination with other plugins, themes and hosts. Obviously, we haven’t tried every single plugin in every single possible configuration — that would literally be impossible — but we’ve been at this long enough that we have a strong basis from which to evaluate WordPress products.
Thus, our goal here is to provide useful information for you, based on our experience and expertise. Now, we can’t (and won’t) foresee every possible development — good or bad — in the vast and ever-expanding world of WordPress. We can’t predict exactly how things will go for you, either. But we can (and will) try to point you in the right direction.
Finally, there are other related issues, like compatibility between plugins. While this is not nearly as big of an issue as it was in the early days of WordPress, it still can be a nightmare. If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, imagine what it feels like to see your site to crash because you’ve installed a plugin one of the others doesn’t like.
But which one is the trouble? And is it only one? The troubleshooting alone can take many, many hours!
We want to help you avoid these kinds of issues, at all costs. This is the impetus behind the Starter Suite. It’s a group of plugins which cover all the important bases, have been tested and used together for many years, and which should give you an excellent foundation from which to customize and build out your own WordPress site/blog.
Below, in the Starter Suite section, you will find several things:
- First, our list of the very best plugins you can (and should) use for WordPress.
- Second, we’ve ordered them by importance (in our considered opinion).
- Third, we’ve also provided a means by which you can get all of these plugins with one easy click, and then install them with just one more!
All you have to do here is share this post to unlock the hidden content with a Like, and you’re set. It’s that simple.
Use this information at your own risk!
We are not responsible for how you use what we’ve provided here. We can’t be! The world of WordPress has far too many variables for us to be responsible for what you do with it. Heck, you, dear reader, are one of those variables! So please understand that while we do our level best to provide accurate, actionable information, nothing here is graven in stone. Things can change at a moment’s notice. Great plugins can go south. New plugins may emerge which challenge our picks. We could suddenly go senile. Anything can happen. 😯 As a result, in short and in the end, it’s all on you!
We are only offering guidance, not guarantees.
On the flip side of the coin, we’re not going to send you a bill when what we’ve provided here ends up saving you a ton of time, effort, aggravation and money, either. So, you gotta take the good with the bad. 😉
Additional WordPress Plugin Info You Should Consider - CLICK
One of the most important things you can do with WordPress is keep your plugins to an absolute minimum. Most experts (ourselves included) say you should try to keep your plugins to a maximum of 25. 20 or less is better, though often this is not possible. There are many reasons for this, but the two most important are speed and reliability. The more plugins you have, the slower your site will load and more problems you are likely to have.
Wherever possible, try to use plugins that have been around for a while and continue to receive high marks. If 10,000 people are using the plugin and it’s got 4.5 stars on the WordPress Plugin Repository, odds are it’s pretty good.
Just bear in mind that people tend to complain much more often and with greater passion than they leave compliments. That’s why the star rating is so important. It’s easy to get somebody to leave a star rating, and a lot more difficult to get them to leave a raving review.
You can also check the latest Reviews to see if the developer is still around and answering questions, or has abandoned ship (something which happens all too often, especially with free plugins).
Many of our selections for the Starter Suite are free plugins which also have a paid version. This is actually a good thing, even if you never step up to the paid model, because it means some people value the software enough to pay for it, and this makes it far less likely that it will be abandoned one day.
As we said before, here at WMS we’ve been using WordPress for a long time, and we have tried, at one time or another, just about every major plugin in every major category. Because of this, we only recommend a plugin when we believe it’s the best overall solution for the problem at hand, and it’s one we’re using ourselves and for our clients. That’s it. If it’s not good enough for us, we’re NOT going to recommend it to you.
We encourage you to do your own research and due diligence. At the end of the day, you may even find a plugin that is more to your liking than the one we’re recommending.
But do yourself a favor, first.
If you’re just getting your site off the ground, use our Starter Suite for now, and use it for a while. Go ahead and research other plugins if you like. But only start swapping them out when you’ve had a chance to use play with your site and the Starter Suite for a time. This then becomes a “baseline” from and by which you can evaluate new plugins you introduce.
We also recommend that you pull some performance metrics before you start swapping in new plugins, so you see objectively what effect the changes are having on your site. Use GTMetrix, Pingdom and Google Page Speed. Also be advised that page speed is an important ranking factor these days, so the slower your site, the less chance you have of being on the first page of the search results. All that is beyond the scope of this particular post, though we plan to address this issue later, and how you can speed up your site relatively easily and inexpensively. Stay tuned!
NOTE: It’s very easy to mistakenly believe a plugin is having a positive effect on your site due to the subjective nature of working on WordPress. We’ve seen the phenomena (and done it to ourselves) before. You may feel like a new plugin is actually speeding up your site because it seems to be having that effect locally, while in the wider world it’s not. This is why it’s important to periodically test your site for performance, so you have at least some objective criteria to judge by.
Our Starter Suite of the Best WordPress Plugins for Blogs
Without further ado (phew!), we bring you our Starter Suite of WordPress Plugins. Simply share this page via the Locker below and you will have full access. Thanks for coming this far, and we sincerely hope you are able to put this information to good use. 🙂
You did it! It’s unlocked! Welcome. Now, let’s get started…
IMPORTANT: PLUGIN UPLOADING
We encourage you to do so. Just bear in mind that you don’t have to get them and upload them to your site one at a time! Ugh. What a job that is… NEVER FEAR! They will be uploaded as a set when the time comes. 😀
#1) Best Free WordPress Security Plugin
Before you do anything else, you must secure your site! Why? Well, do you leave your car unlocked? Do you walk out of your house and leave the backdoor wide open? No, of course you don’t, and for the same reason, you must lock down your WordPress site. If not, you’re asking for trouble.
WordPress is a modern, state-of-the-art piece of software. It’s the result of millions of person-hours of development. But it is not perfect. Nothing made by man (or woman) ever will be. It has vulnerabilities, just like any other piece of software. And given that it represents about 1/3 of all sites in the world today, it has become a regular target for hackers and no-goodniks of all stripes.
If you’re daring — some might say foolish — you can go along without a dedicated WordPress security plugin. Intrinsic WordPress site security is pretty good. But given that security is the single most important consideration outside of the content you put on your site, we can’t recommend doing so. The work you’re going to put into your site is far too valuable to lose it to — or see it defaced by — interlopers. Therefore, we recommend that you use a top notch security plugin.
For us, that plugin is Wordfence.
The plugin has been around for quite a number of years, is constantly being improved, and is provided by a company which does website security for a living. It’s saved our bacon on a number of occasions, ranging from brute force attacks to stealthy hack jobs to malicious code insertions.
Despite it’s technical prowess, Wordfence is designed for beginners as well as experts. It was built from the ground up to be usable by noobs, while at the same time providing cutting edge, state of the art security for pros. It’s ready to go right “out of the box.”
Simply activate it and it will be working in “Learning Mode.” This is valuable, because every installation is different, and the plugin needs to learn the specifics of your site and how you work. But what’s so great is that you don’t need to hand-hold this security plugin, as is the case with so many others. It’s smart, and as you get familiar with it, you’ll see how powerful and valuable it really is.
While the plugin is learning about you and your site, you can take the time to learn about how it does what it does, what all the functions are, and how to modify them to suit your needs (if necessary). Generally speaking, after about a week or so, you can switch it over to “Enabled and Protecting.” The only reason you might not do this so fast is if you are playing around with different themes and plugins. Our advice is to only take the plugin off “Learning Mode” when your site is fairly stable. This way, the chance of false positives tripping the plugin is greatly reduced.
We feel this is the single best security plugin on the market — and that’s for the free version!
In our opinion, the paid version is a bit expensive, but the good news is, most of us don’t need it. On the dozens and dozens of sites where we’ve installed Wordfence, we’ve never once seen the need to upgrade to the paid version. This is not to say we haven’t done so. We have on a few occasions, but this was only done out of an abundance of caution, because a client wanted it, or simply because we wanted to support the developers.Click for Our Pick: Best Free WordPress Security Plugin
NOTE: Be sure to check with your host (you can often find the info in a FAQ) on whether there are specific settings you should enable for Wordfence. It is a very powerful plugin, but it can also fight with your hosting service if not configured properly.
#2) Best Free WordPress SEO Plugin
Assuming you know what SEO is (if not, go here), why do you need an SEO plugin?
Well, the short answer is: you don’t! WordPress was built to be pretty SEO friendly. It’s code is clean and Google can readily read and quantify a WordPress site. So that’s not a problem.
The problem is, there are many, many factors regarding SEO that can’t be addressed by a blogging/site building platform. After all, SEO is a very complex subject. So complex, in fact, that while every person doing business online should really know about it — it helps to be an expert, actually — the reality is that few know much, and most know very little.
Learning SEO is a major undertaking in and of itself. The simple truth is that most people don’t have the desire, even if they were willing to commit the time. As important as SEO knowledge is online, it’s kind of a boring subject for just about everyone other than SEO geeks. And this leads to another big problem. If you really need to be an SEO expert these days to be competitive online, what is a small business person or newbie to do?
Fortunately, when it comes to WordPress, plugins have come to the rescue. SEO plugins allow you to create Google-friendly content without being an SEO expert. You simply follow the rules and prompts of the SEO plugin, and you’re good to go. It really can’t (and probably won’t) get much easier than this.
The number one, most popular SEO plugin is, and has been for many years, Yoast. It’s the brain child of noted WordPress expert and developer Joost de Valk. It first came on the scene in 2006, and it’s been the acknowledged “top dog” of SEO plugins for many years, mainly because it’s fairly intuitive and easy to use, and it does it’s job well.
We think Yoast is a really great plugin. We used it for many years (up until 2014). Many of our more veteran clients refuse to switch from it, simply because they are used to it, even though it has undergone major changes and significant evolution over the years.
All that being said, in our estimation, Yoast is no longer the premier WordPress SEO plugin. That slot has been taken by a relative new comer — and serious competitor — with an unlikely (and some might even say unfortunate) sounding name: Squirrly. So yeah… the name may be funny, but there is nothing squirrely about Squirrly. It’s a very serious tool for serious business people.
In general, the free Squirrly plugin does everything Yoast does and does it better. What Yoast charges for, Squirrly does better, for less. Furthermore, Squirrly offers a range of features neither Yoast nor any other plugin we’re aware of can touch.
To keep it really simple, if you want to pay for the upgraded features, Squirrly charges $29 per month for up to 7 sites.
Yoast charges $89 per month for 1 site. Yikes!!!
Need we say more?
(Frankly, looking back to when we paid for Yoast and comparing what we’re paying now for Squirrly, I kinda can’t believe it.)
Speaking of funny animals, this isn’t the “monkey model,” either, as you often get with free software. Even the free version does a lot of good stuff for you. And like it’s predecessor Yoast, and as with Wordfence above, Squirrly is designed for beginners. It’s easy to set up, get used to and start using. That being said, it’s also got a range of powerful features pros will appreciate.
- Keyword research with a proprietary algorithm which looks at your site (based on SEO factors) and tells you what you can reasonably expect to rank for. This is totally unique in the world of SEO plugins, and in our experience, spot on. If Squirrly tells you something is “Easy to Rank For” and you follow the guidelines, odds are you’ll be on page one in no time. We’ve tested it and we’ve seen it — repeatedly.
- Performance analytics: See where your posts are ranking for a variety of keywords, and monitor trends over time.
- Compose posts that are perfectly formatted for maximum Google love; the Live Assistant literally “coaches” you as your create your posts, correcting your errors and making sure you get every single piece of the perfect SEO post exactly right.
- Get new ideas, curate content (images, tweets, video) with Squirrly’s unique Inspiration Box. Very useful!
- Perform regular site audits to see what parts of site need work, and what you need to do to improve them.
- Squirrly is like having an on-call SEO guru ready to help you 24/7!
And here’s another important factor affecting overall site performance: If you follow our recommendations on how to use Squirrly, you’ll be replacing two plugins with one. Instead of SEO and Sitemap plugins being separate beasts, Squirrly does double duty! Remember, when it comes to site speed, the fewer plugins the better. If you factor in a rank tracking plugin, now Squirrly is replacing three plugins!
So all that being said, the basic version of the plugin is 100% free. It provides all the important features you need to create content that will be noticed by Google and the other big search engines. You may decide you never need the paid version, though it does offer some pretty powerful capabilities you’ll want to be aware of.Click for Our Pick: Best Free WordPress SEO Plugin
#3) Best Free WordPress Cache Plugin
Caching is a method of speeding up your site by optimizing it’s performance beyond that of basic WordPress. Yes, despite the fact WordPress is a modern, professionally coded piece of software, there is always room for improvement — which is where a caching plugin comes in.
If you think of WordPress as a motor, caching is an aftermarket supercharger designed to make it go even faster. You can learn more here, if need be.
There are many different caching plugins out there in the world of WordPress, and many are quite good. Because caching is so important, we’ve made it a point to become knowledgeable about them. To that end, we’ve used all the top WordPress cache plugins extensively. Like a speed freak trying to goose that last bit of horsepower out of his souped up jalopy, with a caching plugin we’re taking WordPress and making it go even faster.
A good caching plugin pre-builds and stores frequently accessed content and code so that it can be served to a visitor instantly, rather than being rebuilt every time it’s needed. This saves time and server resources, which is good for the visitor and you.
Yes, much of WordPress can be “pre-loaded” this way, but without a cache plugin, everything is rebuilt from scratch with every page load. This means your site is much slower than need be. Over time, this amounts to a huge loss of bandwidth, which costs you money. A slow site will turn away potential prospects. Further, a slow site will effect your organic page rankings negatively, meaning you’re hit with a triple-whammy. Ouch! All of it costs you money, either directly or indirectly — or both!
So, good caching plugins dramatically speed up your site. But the best of them are really easy to use, too. That’s our criteria for selection — speed and ease of use.
• The free cache plugin we strongly prefer and recommend is: Comet Cache.
In our tests and experience, this plugin knocked an average of about 33% or 1 second off of page load times.
• A paid solution, which in our testing proved to be the best overall stand-alone cache, is WP Rocket. It’s covered in more detail below.
In our test and experience, this plugin knocked an average of about 35% or 1.2 seconds off of page load times.
Also see WP Hyper Speed.Click for Our Pick: Best Free WordPress Cache Plugin
NOTE: Some WordPress host provide their own, custom built caching plugin (SiteGround, A2, etc.), so be sure you are A) taking advantage of what your host offers, and B) not creating a problem for yourself by having two caching plugins running simultaneously!
#4) Best Free WordPress Backup “Plugin”
It’s important that you backup your site. Once upon a time, you had to do it manually. Ugh. However, these days, it’s no longer necessary. There are a number of different ways to automatically backup your WordPress installations — online services as well as plugins.
In short, to cut to the chase — and in keeping with the KISS formula — let’s just bypass all the bloviation and get right to the point. Very simply, we prefer the site backup provided by ManageWP. The free version will backup your site(s) monthly, automatically, like clockwork. You don’t have to even think about it. And in all the years dealing with the “WordPress backup” issue, it’s the only solution we’ve seen which has been almost entirely painless.
Yep. Having tried many different “solutions” over the years, we’ve settled on this one great service. It does a bunch mission critical chores for us quickly, easily and without hassle. Though there is a “worker” plugin connecting your site to the ManageWP servers, there’s no cumbersome, clunky, unreliable backup plugin, per se, involved. Which is a really good thing!
The truth is, actual backup plugins, which do the work within your own site space and drag enormous amounts of bandwidth out of your server, are frequently problematic. They’re memory hogs and known to be quite buggy. They often conflict with other plugins and services, too. So, we don’t recommend one of these straight-up backup plugins. And we’ve said before, the less plugins which drain your server, the better. With ManageWP, the main workload is handled by their server, not yours.
We just love ManageWP – for a whole slew of reasons. We’ve been using the service for years without a single problem of note. Further, there’s a number of occasions in which ManageWP has literally saved our butts. No kidding. In fact, it did so during preparation of this epic post, when a plugin we were testing wiped the database of this site. Yikes!!!
There’s a further great benefit of ManageWP. Once your WordPress empire begins to grow, you’ll find that ManageWP is the single best multi-site management tool on the market, too.
If you need or desire more frequent backups, ManageWP can do so on a daily or even hourly basis (you decide the interval) for far less than the competition. In short, forget about all the other options. Just go to ManageWP and set up a free account.Click for Our Pick: Best Free WordPress Backup “Plugin”
#5) Best Free WordPress Sitemap Plugin
Believe it or not, Google is pretty stupid. I know, I know, that’s contrary to the image the company wants to project, and may seem ridiculous at first. But here’s the proof. Despite all of it’s technology, it’s multi-billion dollar server arrays, it’s thousands of bots scanning the web, and everything else, it can still miss important pages of your site.
And it will.
Don’t believe us? Then create a bunch of content on a site without a sitemap plugin, wait 90 or 180 days, and then go to Google Webmaster Tools and see if it’s all indexed. Odds are, it won’t be. In fact, unless your site is already highly trafficked, Google won’t know about the majority of your site’s content! Yikes.
It’s that bad, and we should know, having been down this road ourselves too many times before. Sadly, millions of WordPress users out there don’t even realize how they’re sabotaging themselves without a good Sitemap plugin.
There’s nothing worse than putting great time and effort into creating a post only to realize — sometimes weeks or months later — that it’s not indexed by Google at all. OMG! Sadly, this is a common problem when a site doesn’t have a proper sitemap. WordPress by itself does not provide what is known as an XML sitemap, which is what you really want and need if Google is to see the whole of your site.
• Our recommended choice is just as we recommended for SEO: Squirrly. Besides building a basic XML sitemap, it will create for you the properly configured sitemaps for all the important aspects of your site (including those for video, images and even Google news, all of which are highly recommended for SEO purposes) – all done for free! You’ll also get page-level controls over what is indexed and how.
• Yoast can do some of what Squirrly does — for a hefty fee ($89/mo. per site) — while Jetpack just does the basics. Both do provide perfectly serviceable XML sitemaps for you.
• If you don’t like Squirrly, Yoast or Jetpack, there are a number of stand-alone plugins in the WordPress Plugin Repository which build XML sitemaps. Just do a search for ’em.Click for Our Pick: Best Free WordPress Sitemap “Plugin”
NOTE: If you never want to have to worry about your pages getting lost, and you want to ensure they get seen and indexed by Google immediately, then you should also check out WP Rapid SEO Indexer. We love this plugin. It has literally been responsible for pages being indexed and ranked in 12-24 hours!
#6) Best Free WordPress Image Compression Plugin
One of the things that slows sites down tremendously is imagery. It’s a paradox. People want (and to some extent expect) to see interesting imagery on your site or blog. Imagery is really important to catching — and holding — viewer interest. But the more images you have on your site (and more specifically, on a particular page), the slower your site is going to be.
If you’ve ever hit a page with a lot of pictures and found yourself in the “fast” lane at rush hour, then you may know the feeling. Obviously, this is bad news for a site — it hurts with visitors and with Google.
But even if your site is just using pictures in a more or less standard way (a picture or three per post, a logo in the header, some other images here and there, etc.), odds are your site is slowing down because of it. Pictures eat up a lot of memory, and serving them up to each visitor burns bandwidth.
WordPress is great in many ways, but on of it’s shortcomings is that it does nothing for image compression, and these days, that’s a sin. As a result, there are many different plugins which have come to the fore, in order to reduce the size of images. Yes, you can do so without effecting the quality. It turns out that most images can be processed to dramatically reduce their file size while having little to no visible effect on how they look.
As with every other major category of plugin on WordPress, there are many different options available to you when it comes to image compression. And again, we’ve tried most of them, in a tireless quest to find the best mix of compression quality and speed. Because here’s the thing. You can easily over-compress images, and they start to look horrible. Or, you can use a compression engine that isn’t very good, and it doesn’t do much for you.
Our choice for the best free WordPress compression plugin is ShortPixel.
Having tried about half a dozen different compression schemes over the years, we’ve recently settled on what we believe is the best of the best compression services out there, and the good news is, it has a really smart WordPress plugin. Better still, this service gives you 100 free compressions per month — more than enough for the average blogger, and far more than the typical start-up WordPress user would ever need.
NOTE: You can get around having a compression plugin entirely by using the themes of a particular company we love; the compression is built right in. See More About WordPress, Themes and Plugins.Click for Our Pick: Best Free WordPress Image Compression Plugin
#7) Best Free WordPress Analytics Plugin
If you’re building a blog for your friends, or as a hobby, or for the local Elk’s Lodge, you may not care much about traffic numbers; you know you’re only going to get a handful of visitors, and they’re probably not coming to buy anything, so it doesn’t matter.
But if you’re in business, “knowing the numbers” is critical to your success, certainly in the mid to long term. It may not matter much in the immediate short term, particularly if your site is new. But once you’ve got your site seriously up and running, you need to know how your site is doing. Analytics will tell you stuff like:
- How much traffic you’re getting, and from where, including how well your social media is working.
- What pages people are visiting and what keywords brought them by.
- What your bounce rates are, and long people stay on your pages — and your site, overall.
- And much, much more.
Traditionally, people have hooked up their WordPress sites to Google Analytics as a means of gathering all this data. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, and since the service is free, who’s to complain? Further, simply having your site in Analytics helps with your SEO (assuming yours is not a crappy site, anyway).
But there’s a few problems with Google Analytics, too. First, you’ve gotta login in order to see the data. That can be a pain, particularly if you don’t have it open at the time you want to see the data. Second, you’ve got to figure out how to pull usable data from Google Analytics, which is NOT the world’s most user-friendly interface. Far from it, in fact, though to Google’s credit, it has gotten better on this score. Still, Analytics is still less than ideal for the average non-geek.
What you really want and need is a handy-dandy interface inside WordPress. Jetpack has something along these lines, but what it provides onsite is a limited data set. To see it all, as with Analytics, you have to login to WordPress to see it. And in any event, it’s data is not nearly as detailed as what’s available from Google. After all, WordPress is only seeing stuff directly relevant to your site; Google sees the whole web, and Analytics distills all sorts of external data only it has into something relevant to you.
So, in short, neither Google Analytics nor WordPress’ Jetpack stats are ideal solutions for WordPress users who are serious about understanding where their traffic is coming from and what it’s doing when it hits your site. Furthermore, WordPress can’t provide all the demographic data Google provides, because it simply doesn’t have it.
Into this void have stepped a number of plugin developers who have brought Google’s data onboard WordPress in a user-centric way. The best of them have attractive, easy-to-use charts and graphs. And the best of these, in our opinion, is a relative new comer on the block: Analytify.Click for Our Pick: Best Free WordPress Stats Plugin
#8) Better WordPress Text Controls – TinyMCE-Advanced Plugin
As you can probably tell, we are big boosters of WordPress. Compared to how we used to do things (building dedicated websites in HTML and other coding languages from the ground up), the platform has been a Godsend. But it’s not perfect. Heck, if it was, there wouldn’t be thousands of plugins available to improve it and expand it’s capabilities.
One of the areas that WordPress lacks in is, sadly, one of the very most basic ones, given that it got it’s start as a blogging platform. And that is, with it’s writing and editing tool set. The options available in basic WordPress are very sparse. You only have rudimentary controls over the content, and that’s simply not good enough.
Fortunately, an enterprising soul (Andrew Ozz) decided that this problem needed to be fixed. He came up with his own plugin, called TinyMCE-Advanced. We’ve been using this plugin to great effect for years. Frankly, it’s astonishing that the improvements included with Andrew’s creation haven’t been rolled into WordPress itself. It’s possible they will be in the BIG upgrade coming in WordPress 5 (we’re currently on 4.9.x). But until then, we highly recommend you include TinyMCE-Advanced in your mix of plugins. It will give you far more control over the appearance of your posts, and capabilities the bare bones model of WordPress doesn’t have.
The plugin is free, and there’s not even an upgrade path(!), and Mr. Ozz doesn’t so much as ask for a donation. How long he can continue to do this, we can’t say, but we count our blessings every day that he does.Click for Our Pick: Best WordPress Text Controls Plugin
A Word (or Three) About the Jetpack Plugin
Jetpack is a multi-use plugin built by Automattic (the creators of WordPress) which can be very useful. It is unusual as a plugin in that it’s actually half a dozen separate plugins in one. Depending on how you install your WordPress site, it may come pre-installed. It often does.
The good folks at WordPress will really try to press you to use it — it’s a major revenue generator for them — and there are a few advanced features of Jetpack not germane to this guide which are worth considering.
Overall, Jetpack has components which help with traffic monitoring, content creation, SEO, social sharing, performance and site protection. Most of these features, at least at a basic level, are free; paid options are required for backups (and site migration), security (stopping spam, attacks, malware insertion), video and image CDN (Content Delivery Network).
These paid features are all good (some of our clients use them), but at the same time we don’t personally use them or recommend them. Why? Because what Jetpack charges for, it charges premium prices for. Other plugins cover the same bases and do more, or the do same things just as well for less.
Paid Jetpack options are expensive. It costs $3.50 per month per site for the Personal Plan, $9 per month per site for the Premium plan, and $29 per month per site for the Professional plan. The latter plan is the only way you can get what they call “real time” (i.e. on demand) backups.
$3.50 per month for daily backups may not sound like a lot until you realize you can do the same with ManageWP Premium for $2 per month per site, and you get 90 days worth of backups instead of 30. The disparity is even worse if you want on-demand backups (i.e. as needed). Those are included in with ManageWP Premium, but those are only available with the $29 per month per site Professional plan from Automattic!
Frankly — and please don’t tell Automattic we said this — we don’t think Jetpack paid plans are worth the money. For now, unless you really need something offered by the plugin, we recommend that do not use it. If it’s active on your site, deactivate it and dump it (you can always load it later if need be). If you don’t have it in Plugins already, then you’re set! 😉
Oh, one other nice thing about ManageWP. They will give you a loyalty discount if you stick with them. We’ve been with them long enough that we’re getting 30% off! Nice, huh?
• As far as site security goes, you can get all the features of Jetpack (and more) with Wordfence, which is free!
• In the areas of site management, uptime monitoring and SEO tracking, ManageWP does more for a lot less, and it’s charges are based on actual use. See the discussion directly below.
If you only have a single site, money is no issue and absolute maximum convenience, ease of use and compatibility with WordPress itself is your goal (it all coming from the same company, Automattic), then you may want to use Jetpack’s paid services. Otherwise, you probably should think about the other options presented here.Wordpress Jetpack Plugin Info
Suggested “Best of” WordPress Plugins
• WP Rocket – Maximum Speed Boost
We’ve tried a ton of caching plugins over the years. There are some very good free ones. And if you’re hosting with SiteGround or a few other hosts, you’ll have a dedicated caching plugin/system provided for you. We recently downgraded SiteGround from our go-to hosting company to a second tier option, and you may be hosting your WordPress site with a host which doesn’t provide dedicated caching options. In this case, we now recommend WP Rocket.
If absolute maximum performance, combined with ease of use, is your goal, then consider WP Rocket. The Rocket, as we call it, is not cheap; it’s $39/yr. for one site, and $99/yr. for three. But remember what we said above about caching; good caching can make the difference between life and death with Google. All of your work is for naught if you have a slow, poorly performing site (your rankings will be worse, you’ll get fewer visitors, and those who do come to your site will be less likely to stay and poke around).
NOTE: The basic setup of the plugin is simple, but it has many customization options (just as many other caching/performance plugins do). With this or any other cache plugin, start with the recommended settings, then begin learning about the other options. This means you probably won’t get the absolute maximum possible performance out of your site in the short term, but it also means you won’t spend days or weeks pulling your hair out up front, either.Click for Our Pick: Best Paid WordPress Caching Plugin
We’ve been using ManageWP for years now. It’s an indispensable part of our WordPress workflow. What ManageWP does, in simplest terms, is allow you to manage multiple WordPress installations from one centralized dashboard. If you do have and/or or admin more than one site — or have plans to do so — then ManageWP is a must have. Period.
But even if you’ve only got one site, you should consider using ManageWP. Why? Because of everything else it will do for you, for free!
For our immediate purposes, ManageWP will provide automatic backups of your site on a monthly basis. So even if your host provides backup services (some do, some don’t), the more backups the better.
However, if you’ve ever had the onerous duty of having to update two or four or more websites separately, one at at time, as plugins or themes have gone to newer versions, you’ll instantly understand why ManageWP is so powerful and valuable. Now imagine having multiple websites that need multiple plugins and themes updated, sometimes as often as every day!
Not fun. Not easy. Not a great way to spend your weekend.
The summary statement is this: Whether you’ve got one site or one hundred, you need ManageWP!
• The basic features of ManageWP — managing and updating multiple websites (even hundreds at at time), performance and security checks, comment management, monthly backup, and more — are free.
• The advanced features — daily, hourly, on demand backups and SEO, site cloning and migration, security, uptime and performance monitoring — are paid, but they’re ala carte (i.e. each site can have a different mix of paid services), and these are all $1 per site per month. The only exception to this is daily or better backups (which includes on-demand backups), which start at $2 per site per month. However, even real-time backups (i.e. being backed up constantly, 24 hours per day) is only $4 per site per month!
NOTE: The on-demand backups are worth their weight in gold, particularly when you’re concerned about what might happen with your site. If in doubt, make a backup and then go forward with your changes, completely confident that you can get back to where you just left it if need be.
So what we recommend is that you start free, see if you like it, and upgrade as needed. Easy, right?
Frankly, if you’re running more than one WordPress site — or have plans to — using ManageWP is a no-brainer. And BTW, we’ve tried a number of competitors. To this point, we’re sticking with the tried and true. In over five years of using ManageWP, we’ve never been disappointed even once. Not once. And that’s saying something!Click for Our Pick: The ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of WordPress Plugins”
UPDATE: ManageWP was recently acquired by (but run completely independent of) one of our favorite domain registration companies, GoDaddy, which not coincidentally has been making a strong push into the WordPress world in recent years. We still can’t recommend GoDaddy WordPress hosting (it’s not very good), but there should be no doubt whatsoever — if there was before — that ManageWP is here to stay.
We’ve discussed caching plugins above, but this bad boy isn’t really one of those. It will do little to nothing for the standard site metrics, like those you’ll get from GMetrix or Pingdom. Unlike standard caching plugins, that’s not the purpose of this plugin.
However, what WP Hyper Speed does is make your site load faster for human visitors! As in, your pages will load in an eyeblink!
In fact, in our tests and experience, it makes even slow sites load wicked fast for the visitor. Why is this important? Because research has shown that every tenth of second delay in page loading time costs visitors. This plugin uses special technology to ensure that when a visitor hits your page, he or she sees it instantly!
So this plugin may not do much for you in the Google Analytics dashboard. But where it really counts — in the court of public opinion — this plugin will work wonders for you. We’ve seen it ourselves, our clients have seen it, and we all love it! You will too — guaranteed!
This plugin has a 30 day no questions asked satisfaction guarantee. It’s currently going for $37, and we strongly suggest you consider investing in it ASAP.WP Hyper Speed: Best Speed Boosting WordPress Plugin
Everybody who knows anything about marketing online knows that it’s important, wherever and whenever possible, to get free traffic from the search engines — what we call “organic traffic.” Many folks naively believe that when they publish a new post from their blog — particularly in a day and age where the posts often get sent to Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. — Google Search automatically sees it, indexes it and ranks it, making sure they will receive traffic from the Big G.
Well, the good news is, Google probably does “see” the link. 🙂
The bad news is, it may not care to index it. In fact, it probably won’t. And if it doesn’t index it, your content will not rank. That means, for all intents and purposes, what you’ve just so proudly published is invisible. In-freaking-visible! It won’t be found in search, and it will not bring you any organic traffic at all! 🙁
When we do site audits for clients, they are often shocked and appalled to learn that so much of what they have spent so much time laboring over — posts, articles, graphics, etc. — were NOT ever indexed by Google, even years later! We aren’t shocked, ’cause we’ve seen it so many times before. But it’s sad to see the looks on their faces when they realize most of their work online was a total waste of time, effort and money. Obviously, at this point, we try to fix it (and we usually do). But the point is: who wants to be in this mess?
I know you don’t!
See, the thing is, BILLIONS of pieces of content get posted to the web everyday. Contrary to what you may think, Google doesn’t really give a damn about most of it — or yours either!
Worse yet, because so much content is being pumped out there every minute of every day (most of it exemplifying Theodore Sturgeon’s infamous law: “90% of everything is crud.”), Google can literally miss it — and then forget about it. This is not to say you only have one shot at the prize. Not at all. Just because a piece of content hasn’t been indexed (and hopefully ranked) doesn’t mean it won’t be, either.
But what it DOES mean is that, in the meantime, the content that never got indexed in the first place may not get indexed for a long time. Or, worse yet, it may not ever get indexed at all!
So, there are many strategies you can follow to avoid this problem. Certainly, sharing posts to social media will help your stuff get indexed, particularly if it’s popular. But it can still take days, weeks, even months for Google to finally deign to index and rank it — if it happens! There are no guarantees with this method. All other issues aside, not being indexed/ranked is robbing you of potential traffic you could be seeing. So what to do? How to get around this?
Well, what if there were a free, painless way to get INSTANT INDEXING AND RANKING for every page or post you create in WordPress? There is, and that’s what this very simple but very powerful plugin does for you. The plugin will cost you a few bucks, but after that, you’re golden. The only “cost” will be the few seconds it takes you to push the “Submit to Google” button.
Simple enough, eh?
It’s like having an inside track right into Google’s indexing queue. We’ve seen it get stuff indexed and ranked in hours! We kid you not.
So, in short, if you want to be SURE your content is getting the treatment from Google it deserves, there’s no better way to do it than use this plugin. It’s from the same guys that make WP Hyper Speed, and in our collective judgment, is a MUST HAVE plugin. Like it’s cousin, it has a 30 day total satisfaction guarantee. Set up is fast ‘n’ easy. You just hook the plugin into your Google Analytics account, and you’re done!
At this moment in time, you can get the plugin for $37. Better money online you will never spend!WP Rapid SEO Indexer: Get Your Content Indexed by Google Today!
We’ve got a selection of powerful WordPress traffic plugins (and other resources) which will greatly enhance your results online, by bringing highly targeted, interested visitors to your site day after day, week after week, month after month, all on total autopilot!
These are far more than the standard social sharing or SEO plugins. Several of them are incredibly powerful and mostly unknown, except to real internet marketing experts and WordPress superstars. By using any of them (much less all of them), you’ll have an incredible advantage over everybody else. That’s the good news.
The bad news is, we can’t tell you about them. Not quite yet. We’d love to, but in the interests of getting this monumental post done, we simply couldn’t get to it — or we’d have been at it for even more freakin’ hours! Ugh.
We are going to share these plugins with you ASAP. In the future, we may add them here — as was the original plan — since traffic is a critical component of succeeding online, and Heaven knows those just launching a site/blog need all the help they can get.
So as they used to say in the old days of print — WATCH THIS SPACE!
But in the meantime, watch your inbox for updates from us — we’ll be telling you about these tools (some of them are plugins, other pure online services) in the very near future!
In order to make your job as painless as possible, we’re going to use a very specialized plugin called WPCore to upload the Starter Suite to your site. Once you’ve got WPCore working, you’ll be able to do so with just one click.
NOTE: You can pick and choose which plugins from the Starter Suite you wish to use. There may be plugins in the current Starter Suite we haven’t mentioned here, because we consider them to be optional but valuable. We recommend you upload the whole lot, but again, it’s your choice what you upload, install and activate.
We’re going to start with WPCore, and the plugin of the same name (though installing the plugin comes much later). WPCore is a very useful site within the overall WordPress ecology. It allows you to store sets of WordPress plugins you like, so you can dramatically speed up the process of setting up your site/blog. Most noobs have no idea what an onerous task it is to laboriously install and activate plugins one at at time, but old veterans know it all too well.
This site solves that problem. When the plugins you need are in one or more sets at WPCore, all you have to do is login and grab them — assuming you have the WPCore Plugin Manager plugin installed, that is.
Installing the Starter Suite
So, in order to get everything done in as smooth and efficient a way as possible, please go through the following lists:
• Preparatory Steps
Before you can install all the Starter Suite plugins, there are a few things you need to do first:
- Goto Wordfence (Security) and set up your free account.
- Goto Squirrly (SEO and Sitemap) and set up your free account.
- Goto Comet Cache (Performance) and set up your free account.
- Goto ManageWP (Backups) and set up your free account.
- Goto ShortPixel (Image Compression) and set up your free account.
- Goto Analytify (Stats) and set up your free account.
- Goto WPCore (One-click upload and Installation) and set up your free account.
NOTE: In the obvious interests of speed and efficiency, you should probably use the same email account for all of these entities. We further suggest that you make it a dedicated email account for this very purpose, so important information regarding your WordPress installation doesn’t get lost in the daily deluge of emails you undoubtedly receive (just like the rest of us).
• Optional Steps
If you’re using any of the optional plugins, set those accounts up too.
- Goto WP Rocket, purchase and download.
- Goto Rapid SEO Indexer, purchase and download.
- Goto WP Hyper Speed, purchase and download.
Once you’ve got the Preparatory Steps (above) out of the way — and any Optional Steps you may want to do — you can put the Starter Suite to work. Just do the following:
- Goto your Plugins menu in WordPress. Click “Add New.” Do a search for “WPCore” or “WPCore Plugin Manager.” Install and activate the plugin.
- Goto the WPCore plugin home page within your site, click on the “Add a Collection Key” button. Use this key (copy and paste):
Then click the “Save Collections” button.
NOTE: If you cannot copy/paste or this otherwise fails, you can also get the key (and the whole collection) here.
- When the page refreshes, you should see the plugins from the Starter Suite listed. Click on the “Install Plugins” button.
- Goto Plugins within your site, Select All and Activate.
- Goto Comet Cache and toggle open Enable/Disable. Make sure it is Enabled!
- Upload and activate any of the Optional Plugins. DO NOT use Comet Cache and WP Rocket together! Use one or the other. If using WP Rocket (or any other Caching plugin for that matter), make sure it is working and configure properly. Consult the developer’s reference materials if necessary.
So now you’ve gone and done it! That’s it. Finito. The Starter Suite of WordPress Plugins should be installed and working. 😀
Additional, supplementary sets of plugins we’ve put together at WPCore – which enhance and expand WordPress capability – can be found on this page. You may want to bookmark it for later reference.
At this point, you may also want to Deactivate and delete the WPCore plugin, unless you have further plans to “bulk upload” other plugins. You can always reinstall it later if need be.
Also, if your site is brand new, delete the Akismet and Hello Dolly plugins. You don’t need the former because Wordfence will be doing security tasks for you (including spam control) and the latter, well, despite expressing some heartfelt feelings of the developer, because it does nothing for your site.
More About WordPress, Themes and Plugins - CLICK
The Wonderful World of WordPress
One of the things that makes WordPress so attractive to so many is the wide variety of ready-made themes which are available, a high percentage of which are free to use, just like plugins. We have not discussed themes in this report, because themes and plugins are often thought of as separate beasts, and in many ways they are. Furthermore, a report on themes could easily be a book.
It’s a task we may tackle at some other time, but as we know from personal experience it’s the plugins that give newbies the most trouble, it’s where we decided to focus. After all, anybody can pick a theme. More often than not, it’s a personal choice, like the clothes one wears, and it’s easy — relatively speaking. You either like the looks of a theme or not!
Of course, there’s a lot more to themes than just appearance. And it’s true that themes can effect plugins and vice versa. The feature set of your theme is important. The good news, though, is that for the most part, themes and plugins are independent from each other, even on the same installation.
The biggest exception to this being plugins which make materially significant changes to the function of WordPress itself, which by nature interacts with the theme. We’ve tried to avoid those kinds of plugins for the Starter Suite, both because they are usually plugins which provide very specialized functions beyond the scope of this report, and because we’re trying to follow the KISS method here — Keep It So Simple.
As a result, the plugins we’ve chosen for the Starter Suite have been proven to work well with just about any theme known to man — free or paid. In fact, the designers of said plugins, being consummate professionals, have striven to do just that. Today, WordPress users can fully expect any one plugin to work with any other theme, and since the adoption of fairly rigorous coding standards in recent years, this has, by and large, been the case. Plugins do tend to play well with themes and each other. It’s not always true, of course, but generally speaking, the days of non-stop compatibility headaches are over.
While most of the plugins in the Starter Suite are made by different parties, there’s something to be said for plugins made by the same developers; they tend to be the most compatible and most smoothly integrated. And as it happens, there’s a set of very, very powerful plugins which are designed to work with a related group of themes — though in our experience, and in the tradition of the best plugins, they work just fine with themes made by unrelated developers, too.
Our #1 Choice for WordPress Theme Makers
And Their Plugins Aren’t Bad, Either…
The themes and plugins to which we’re referring are those made by ThriveThemes. Founded by Shane MeLaugh and Paul McCarthy in 2013, ThriveThemes is one of the most experienced, capable and talented developers in all of the WordPress world. We’ve been customers since day one, so we’ve seen the constant improvement it’s products undergo. ThriveThemes is very responsive to it’s users, too, so there are always great new features in development at all times.
One of the things things that makes ThriveThemes particularly good is that all of the company’s products are designed to work seamlessly together, and with e-commerce in mind. These are themes and plugins designed by marketers, for marketers! This is a really good thing, and it’s something which isn’t really true of other developers we’re aware of.
Lots of developers produce great looking themes and useful plugins. There’s no doubt about that. But very few approach it from the standpoint of marketing. And frankly, from that marketing standpoint is where most of them fall down.
So why do we mention all this here, in a report on the Starter Suite of WordPress Plugins? Well, frankly, because we’d be remiss if we didn’t. We feel this information is that important.
In short, if you’re looking to take things up a notch (or ten), then you really should consider ThriveThemes. For it’s plugins, themes or — preferably — both. To recap:
- It’s themes integrate many functions that in other cases require separate plugins.
- It’s plugins offer capabilities you won’t find elsewhere.
- ThriveThemes builds it’s products to the highest standards of digital “fit and finish” we’ve ever seen.
In a way, we think of ThriveThemes as the Cadillac of WordPress developers, and you should be aware of them for future reference, if nothing else. But let’s talk about some of those features you won’t find in most other themes — certainly not in free ones, but in many “premium” themes as well. These are (partial list):
- Built in Lazy Loading.
- Built in Image Optimization and Compression.
- Multiple Page Layouts and Templates.
- Advanced Social Sharing Options.
- Built In Script Handling.
- Advanced Comment Controls.
- Extensive Customization Settings.
All of the above, in most other themes, require separate plugins. But again, these features are built-in to ThriveThemes themes. This means you’ve got inherent functionality which would otherwise slow your site down. Additionally, this frees up a lot of “slots” that would otherwise require a plugin, which means your site will load smoother and faster with ThriveThemes products than with most of the competitors.
Now, having got the theme part of this out of the way, let’s talk about their plugins, because this is where ThriveThemes really shines.ThriveThemes & Plugins: The Professional Blogger’s Choice
Thrive Architect Plugin
In our experience (and we’ve tried half a dozen competitors), Thrive Architect is of the best and most user-friendly custom page and layout builders for all of WordPress. Build your own sales, marketing and landing pages with ease. Base them on hundreds of high-quality pre-built templates, or do it all from scratch. The choice is yours. There are too many features to go into here, but they include real-time point and click editing, animations and mobile ready pages with no re-coding, just to name a few. We use Thrive Architect as our go-to custom page builder nearly every day. It’s the #1 choice of thousands of discriminating WordPress admins and designer, and we think it might be yours, too.
Thrive Comments Plugin
Comments are one of the most powerful indicators for Google that a page/site is happening! Get a lot of comments going on your stuff, and you won’t have to worry nearly as much about getting social shares and backlinks to improve your SEO and bring in traffic; comments will do it for you. These days, what Google wants to see — in addition to your quality content in the first place — is activity, interaction and time on site.
Unfortunately, the default comment system for WordPress — even if enhanced by Jetpack — is pretty lame. It doesn’t do anything to make commenting desirable, interesting or fun, which is why, on so many sites — even those with good content — comments are usually dead.
But there’s a way to fix this all quickly and relatively painlessly. It’s called the Thrive Comments plugin! What this plugin does is entice, encourage and reward interaction with your content by way of the comments. We’ve seen it absolutely blow up the comments on some of our client’s sites, particularly for local markets where people want to be able to interact online with their neighborhood “butcher, baker and candle stick maker.” 😉 You get the idea.ThriveThemes & Plugins: The Professional Blogger’s Choice
When you boil every aspect of marketing down to it’s most basic function, it’s this: Shagging names.
In other words, building a list of loyal customers and interested prospects — and having the means to reach them. In the old days, that meant getting their mailing addresses. These days, it means getting their email addresses.
But while this all sounds obvious and simple, it’s NOT nearly as “obvious” or “simple” as most believe. It’s actually pretty hard, and getting harder still. Why?
These days, people are bombarded with marketing messages, one way or another, nearly 24/7. And then there’s all the scandals associated with data breaches; people are concerned about their privacy and security, and understandably so. Further, everybody has been on a bunch of lists that send out too much crap, so people are very wary about joining another. Put all this together (and a bunch of other factors we won’t go into here), and the net result is “It’s not that easy anymore to build a list!”
Yet a list is the whole point of the exercise, right?
So in 2018 and beyond, if yours is just another site screaming “Opt in to me!” you’re going to find it very difficult to get signups. I know this may be a bitter pill for some of you who are reading this, but it’s better to know about it now than after you’ve spent $500 on Facebook ads, right? And don’t take it personally! Even professional marketers are freaking out about steadily falling opt in rates. It’s just the way of the world.
But at the same time, no matter how “loudly” and often you scream, if you don’t have something cool to offer, you’re not going to get signups either. This goes to the psychology of obtaining opt ins, and these days, suffice it to say you’d better have a damn compelling giveaway offer in order to get people to give your their good email address (i.e. not the one they use specifically for opt ins they plan on ignoring).
As a result of the factors mentioned above, you’ve practically got to “scream” from your site, otherwise you’re virtually guaranteed to miss getting the opt in. Furthermore, you’d better have an absolutely badass lead capture system working, or you’re shooting yourself in the foot. And the other foot. And the leg. And the hand. And maybe the head!
In short, the days of having a little opt in form in the sidebar and getting sign ups are long past — and what you need, is ThriveLeads!
It’s well beyond the scope of this report to get into the many aspects of list building — that’s another guide in and of itself — but insofar as you want to have the absolute best, state-of-the-art lead capture system available for your efforts, then please read on.
In a nutshell, ThriveThemes has perfected lead capture with it’s ThriveLeads plugin.
With a good list you’re golden. A good list will make you money, rain or shine, for many years to come, assuming you treat them right.
But not just any email address — a good email address! Ever been annoyed by forms, popups and subscribe offers on sites you are already signed up for? It sucks, doesn’t it? Particularly for the 100th time!
Well, you won’t be doing this to your most loyal fans and supporters if you use Thrive Leads. Make use of their proprietary SmartLinks technology, and all that stuff disappears for visitors to whom it is redundant. In other words, you’ll never again be pestering a subscriber to subscribe. They literally won’t ever see any of that kind of stuff again.
For the experienced and professional marketer, this one feature alone should be the clincher — all other advantages and benefits of ThriveThemes aside. This is cutting edge technology that just isn’t available to the general WordPress community, and which would require you to have extensive (and expensive) custom coding done otherwise.
ThriveThemes: Other Plugins
We never intended this section to become a sales page for Thrive, so we’ll curtail further info here. But you can tell (duh) what we think about the company, and why we recommend it’s products so highly. Today, ALL of our sites, including this one, use ThriveThemes products – and most of our clients do, too. Check ’em out!ThriveThemes & Plugins: The Professional Blogger’s Choice
A Few (Important) Thoughts on Hosting - CLICK
This report is not about hosting. It’s about the best free WordPress plugins. But there can’t be a complete discussion about plugins without mentioning themes, and the same goes for hosting. They’re all interrelated.
If you’ve already got hosting for your WordPress site, cool. Good for you. We hope you picked a great host.
But if you don’t have hosting yet, or you want to hear what we have to say about the subject, then please bear with us a bit longer.
Just as with WordPress plugins and themes, we’ve extensively tested WordPress hosting companies. Many of them. Almost too many to count!
We’ve tried the big ones. We’ve tried the small ones. We’ve tried dozens that claimed to be “the best” for WordPress sites, and found most of them to be wanting in one or more important areas.
Some of these names are among the biggest and most well known hosting companies out there, including more than a few that supposedly specialize in WordPress. These include: Hostgator, Bluehost, Dreamhost, InMotion, MediaTemple, LiquidWeb, Site5 and GoDaddy. But this is only a sampling of all the hosting companies we’ve tried down through the years…
So, by process of elimination and exasperation, we’ve narrowed it down to a few really good, inexpensive WordPress hosts, and because of that, we can keep this section short and sweet. We could write a full report on the ins and outs of dedicated WordPress hosting — and we may, depending on demand.
There are a few specialist WordPress hosts that are exceptional — but also expensive — and so we’ll give those a pass for now. Besides, the hosts we’re going to recommend can upgrade and/or scale your accounts to any level of speed and capability you may eventually need, so why not start small and see how it goes?
I mean, we’re talking a few bucks a month for very high quality shared WordPress hosting, by companies which truly do know WordPress backwards and forwards, and have gone to great lengths to make sure it sings with their hosting.3
NOTE: Despite what some people will tell you, you really don’t need super high-end hosting right out of the gate unless, for some reason, you are going to be getting a deluge of traffic — which does not include 99.9% of those reading this report. Anyway, when it comes time to upgrade, it all depends on your anticipated traffic loads and budget, and at that point, it’s best to get with the server brain trust at your host and do some thorough planning.
OK, let’s do this thing then!The Best Inexpensive WordPress Hosting: Choice #1 The Best Inexpensive WordPress Hosting: Choice #2
These days, we’re recommending only two “starter” hosts. Sadly, we can no longer recommend Siteground, our long time favorite “low cost, high quality” company because they took a great customer service system and made it awful. Other than that, Siteground is still good. We do confess to having a deep love affair with SG Optimizer, Siteground’s in-house WordPress caching system, which makes sites on their servers load wicked fast. But what are you gonna do, right? C’est la vie.
A Few Final Thoughts About the Starter Suite of WordPress Plugins
The above guide is a full “short course” on what we believe to be the absolute best set of free WordPress plugins you can get your hands on, and use with any WordPress site — new or old. We call it the Starter Suite of WordPress Plugins, and it’s been in use, in one form or another, for over five years now. People love it!
The Starter Suite is the result of many years and thousands of man (and woman) hours of hard experience working with hundreds of WordPress installations. We created The Suite specifically so we could set up every new site we build in a consistent way, without worrying about whether it was all going to fit together right, and so we had a solid foundation upon which to build the rest of a website. We recommend you use it the same way.
The above covers what kind of plugins you absolutely should have, which ones we recommend you use, and how to upload, install and activate them with just a few clicks (i.e. it won’t take you hours). Best of all, every single great plugin we’ve picked is FREE (though most have a paid upgrade* you probably won’t need); you won’t have to spend a dime to get great performance out of your site/blog.
If your site is new, you can make sure it functions well right off the start line. And if you have an older WordPress site which isn’t being administered by a WordPress expert, you will find that the Starter Suite is a big help. The plugins in the Suite are proven to work together and are easy to manage. As a result, your site with perform like a finely tuned racing engine without having to get your hands dirty — or go into cerebral overload, either!
By unlocking this content, you are going to gain all the advantages of our years of experience with WordPress, without having to crack a sweat. Pretty cool, huh? 😉
*Paid upgrade: As we say in the report above, the fact a plugin has a paid upgrade path should not worry you. It should actually encourage you, because it means there are people paying money towards the ongoing updating and development of said plugin. Pure “free” plugins often become abandoned plugins, when developers get tired of slaving away for nothing, and move on. Which leaves WordPress users in a terrible position. Hard experience has taught us that purely free plugins, while wonderful from a sharing and community standpoint, often do not stand the test of time, and there’s few things worse than finding out after your site has crashed that a critical plugin is no longer compatible with the latest WordPress update. We feel very comfortable with our logic here and the plugins we have picked, and we think you will too.
Please tell us what you think of our article on the best WordPress plugins for blogs. Did we miss something? Are there any points we left out? Any categories of plugin you think needs coverage? What can we do to improve it? Would a video tutorial help, or even be better, a full video course? Do you want more detail on using the Starter Suite? Please leave your thoughts in comments below. 🙂
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