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Bonus Lesson

5 Essential WordPress Plugins

In this bonus lesson we share five essential WordPress plugins to help small businesses get the basics in place as quickly as possible.
From Yoast to WP Rocket and more besides, if you’re looking for some quick wins, this training video has you covered.

Watch the next lesson: Bonus Lesson – How To Do Competitor Research Like a Pro

Worksheets & downloads available here

Video Transcription

Hello, and welcome to this bonus lesson.

Now, I get asked all the time about which plugins I recommend for website speed or website security, which CMS is best, where to buy domain names from, all sorts of things like that. So, I thought what better way than to create a quick overview bonus lesson where I go through some of my tried and tested tools and plugins and show you some of my go to resources?

So, as you may have guessed, seeing as we’ve worked through the entire course, the CMS or content management system, that I recommend using and that I use all the time, is WordPress. Now, WordPress.org is the completely free, open sourced version of WordPress.

There is another version, a WordPress.com version, which is the hosted version which is very restricted, but the WordPress.org version is the open source CMS where you can do absolutely anything, can create pretty much any type of website that you desire. It’s what I use, and most hosting providers will have WordPress.org as a default CMS option. With a few clicks or a little bit of help from your hosting provider, they can get a WordPress website set up. That is my go to CMS.

There are a lot of other CMSs out there, Joomla, Drupal, there’s various e-commerce ones like Shopify and Magento, all have their pros and cons, much like WordPress, but for me, from my experience and building the various websites that I have built over the years and working with various clients and their requirements and what they want to achieve across various different industries, I’ve always found WordPress to stand up and always be capable, because in no small part that it is open source and you can do absolutely anything with the CMS. As long as you … if you get a good developer on board, they are limited only by their imagination and by your requirements. So, WordPress is the CMS that I always recommend using.

As far as buying domain names and website hosting, there is a company that I use, and they’re a UK based company, and they’re called TSOHOST. Now, I have no affiliation with this company at all, other than the fact that I use them. They’re very, very good. They’ve got UK based support, which I consider to be very, very important. They’re always available, and almost … you can see from seven am to midnight by the phone, or out of those hours, they’ve got a support email as well. Generally, I’m only working between seven am and midnight. I tend not to work between midnight and seven am, funnily enough, and I’m sure you won’t either. So they’ll always have someone on phone support.

You can buy domain names from these guys, you can buy your web hosting from these guys. You can buy any SSL certificates. So if you want to put your website on a secure hosting environment, they can provide this, and crucially, they can set all this up for you. And they’re very, very good if you get a website or a domain name and some hosting and you want them to set up WordPress or something else, they’re often … they’re more than happy to do that for you, and they’re very quick as well. Often, if I have any issues, I phone them up. Within half an hour to an hour, generally speaking, they’ve sorted out my issue or they have, yeah, helped me in whichever way I need. So TSOHOST, really good guys. I’ve been using them for a few years now, and they’re just a reliable UK based host.

Because there are a lot of really cheap American hosts and overseas hosts that will charge you literally pennies to host your website or to buy a domain name. But often, if you’re really paying pennies, you’re not gonna get the type of service that, as a business owner, you’re going to want and deserve and need, so always best to go for a UK based company and, like I said, just in my experience, these guys have been good. They’re by no means the only company. Other big companies you’ve probably heard of, like 123Reg and GoDaddy, also very, very good. I use them as well, and they provide much the same service as domain names, hosting, email providers, all sorts of other services you may need.

So, I wanna get into now to talking about the handful of WordPress plugins that, if you’ve got a WordPress website, they’re going to be vital. These are plugins that they serve a variety of purposes and they’re absolutely key. I instal them on every single website I’m working on, all my client’s websites have pretty much every single one of these plugins on because they serve a variety of purposes and they’re all the best in class or the best for that type of plugin, what it’s meant to do, they’re the best version that I have found, and I have experimented and tried a heck of a lot of plugins.

And I know that plugins is one of those things that confuses a lot of business owners, so I thought the best thing I can do is share with you what I know and what I use. Now, Yoast SEO is one of those plugins that we’ve previously covered. We used it when we were optimising your websites and it is by far and away, in my experience, the best on page SEO plugin. Once installed, you get all sorts of options. You get a wizard walk through that helps you set up your site in the initial phases, and then as you get more into it, you can do a page by page optimization with your page titles, your meta descriptions, your URLS, there is an element and an area for doing your setting up your site maps.

They’ve got a whole bunch of really useful on page elements, which is all bundled into this one plugin and is absolutely fantastic. I highly, highly recommend it. I’ve tried pretty much every SEO plugin for WordPress that’s out there, and this one, in my experience, is the best. It’s nice and simple, it’s easy to use. Some of the plugins you get and they’re just overwhelming with the amount of information they have and they’re confusing to set up and they almost require a web developer to use. It’s madness. Whereas this one, it’s nice straight forward, and it’s completely free.

They do have a premium paid version which has some additional elements to it. It’s good. I’ve used it a handful of times. It’s not something I always use. It’s certainly not something that you need, but as you get into this, if you’re wanting to just streamline your home page a little bit more and get into a little bit more of the advanced areas and just tick a few more boxes, then it might be worth considering. It’s not particularly expensive, and you can read all about it if you just simply go on … well, if you have the free version already on your website, you’ve only gotta go into the backend of your website and they’ll be an option there saying, you know, “Find out more about our premium version.”

Alternatively, if you just simply google Yoast SEO Premium, it will come up and you can read all about it here. I’d say it is worth the cost if you’ve done the basics and you’re just looking at fine tuning and taking your website to the next level. But, as I say, it isn’t something that you need. It’s not one of those programmes where the free version will only do such a limited amount that you’re almost forced to get the premium. Most websites that I work on only use the free ones. It’s only if I’m really trying to ratchet it up that I’ll use the paid version.

What else do we have? So that’s the best one for on page SEO. Now, I want to come to something else that confuses a heck of a lot of people and that is website speed. Because this is an area that there’s arguably more confusion and more stress caused by website speed, because the speed of your website is a huge, huge, huge ranking factor. And I’m actually going to do a bonus lesson on website speed and speed optimization, because this really is that important for your website. You can have the best website in the world, fully optimised, but if it’s really slow to load, it’s going to cause you endless problems, especially where mobile optimization is concerned.

Now, again, I have tried all sorts of different plugins, all sorts of configurations, and there are so many different speed based or speed optimization plugins out there, loads and loads of free ones and loads of paid ones as well. And, fairly recently actually, in the last few months, I stumbled across WP Rocket. And in my experience to date, they have been fantastic. And it’s not expensive, but it is paid and it’s a speed optimization plugin. It does all sorts of things, it does page cashing, it does pre-loading. Very technical some of this stuff, images on request. It does everything you can see here. It’s quite involved, but luckily, it simplifies it for you, and just means you can unplug it, you change a handful of settings, and it will do all of the groundwork for you.

Now, like I said, and again, I have no connection to these guys whatsoever. I’m not gonna give you any affiliate links or anything, all I’m gonna say to you is if you like the idea of this and your website speed is something you’ve struggled with or that you just can’t seem to get right, this is a tool to consider. For one website, it’s $39. That’s around what? 30 pounds at today’s conversion rate, so it really is nothing, considering it could dramatically speed up your website. And in my experience in the whole bunch of sites that I’ve added this to, it has made a real difference.

And like I said, in one of the other bonus lessons, I am actually going to use, do this live over my shoulder so you can actually see me adding this to a website and see the difference it actually makes. So keep an eye out for that, make sure to watch that lesson, and it will show you, demonstrate the difference that it makes. But WP Rocket is, in my experience, better than W3 Total Cache, it’s better than all the different, all these other ones, which are … often they only do parts of what WP Rocket does, and they’re much more technical to set up and then to keep monitoring and to keep clearing the cache and doing all the various bits.

This seems to be an off the shelf solution that in my experience to date has worked an absolute treat. So, I would encourage you to have a look at this, WP Rocket, just google search that, have a look at the features and see if it could potentially be a good option for you as far as WordPress website speed is concerned. Because that is a big, big, big priority for a lot of people. Hence I’m going to do a lesson just based on that.

Moving on. Wordfence is a security plugin. Because again, WordPress security is something that a lot of people worry about. You’ve got a business website, you’ve taken the time to create something fantastic, you put your content out there, the last thing you want is your website hacked or spammed or problems caused on your website. Now, again, Wordfence, having tried the prerequisite to every one of these plugins is that I’ve tried just about every one you can think of, and these are the ones which are the best, from my experience.

Often I think the rating kind of tells you a lot. I mean, this thing has been installed … it’s got active instals of over two million. Look at those reviews. I mean, that just kind of tells you everything you need to know. And it’s the security plugin. It has a whole bunch of features. Again, it has a free version, which is this, which is more than sufficient for most small business websites, it will keep your data, your website nice and secure, it will prevent spammers and spambots and all sorts of issues that can arise in any CMS. Not just WordPress, but in any … putting anything out there online, you’re always susceptible to things getting attacked and spammed and tried to be, yeah, effective in some sort of negative spammy way. So, WordPress … Wordfence even is the best version.

As ever, these guys do also have a premium version, which is what I use for most of my personal websites. It’s fairly reasonably priced. Can’t recall off the top of my head how much it is. Let’s see where we are. Oh, that’s right. They have a sliding scale for depending on how many keys. A key … you need one key per website. So for a year, it’s $99. For two keys … so if you run more than website, it does get more and more cost effective. Hence I think I have ten or 25 maybe keys, I have a whole bunch of keys.

So you can see, you can just buy the number of keys, choose the number of years, and the premium version, like with most things, just gives you enhanced protection. It really keeps your website nice and secure. So if you run an e-commerce site or if you’re running something where you’re collecting customer data, it may be worth considering. Because, really, what’s a hundred pounds or not even that, 80 pounds for a year? And like I said, it does get cheaper if you buy for two or three years to protect your business website and everything on your website for, you know, under a hundred pounds? For me, that’s a no brainer to keep you really, really protected.

And these guys do have great support as well if you ever run into any issues, if you need any help setting up, they’re really, really good. So I would, again, if you don’t already have a security plugin or if you have something that’s not quite working for you or if it’s something that you’ve just not bothered to do as a lot of websites are completely unprotected. If that’s you, instal the free version, see how you get on with it. If you’re liking it, maybe consider the premium version. So that is the best as far as I’m concerned when it comes to your website’s security.

And just a couple of others now. Contact Form 7 is just a contact form software. So if you have your website, depending on the theme or how you’ve got your website set up, you may already … it’s very likely you’ll have a contact form solution on your website already, so someone can fill in a form and they can submit, and you get an email. Again, a lot of these forms sound great, but when you actually start testing them and stuff like that, they don’t work. And that is something … if you’ve got a contact form on your website, make sure you do actually test it, because you wouldn’t believe the number of times that I’ve started working with a client or I’ve tested a website or I’ve just tried to give some help or assistance to a business owner, I’ve tested their contact form, just simply to make sure that it’s coming through, and it’s not.

And I think, “Wow. If your contact form isn’t working, how do you ever expect to get any business inquiries or leads or anything like that?” So, if you haven’t, just quickly go and test it. It’s one of those things when I say, people go, “I really should do that. I’ve never done it.” So if you haven’t, make sure you do it. And if you do encounter any issues, Contact Form 7 is a very reliable, easy to set up, fantastic tool. Again, three million active instals, really positive reviews. Really, really robust … it just works out of the box way of having a contact form in many different ways. You can have it in sidebars, in main contact, in all sorts of different ways that enables people to just, yeah, send you a contact form from your website.

So that, again, is one of these, is one of the default plugins that I always instal onto my websites and any websites I’m working on. And, lastly, WP Maintenance Mode. This is essentially a holding page. So if you’re working on your website or if you’re updating your website, as I normally am, when I’m working on websites, if I’m making changes, and I don’t want users to see changes being made, if I’m affecting the aesthetics of the website or whatever, WP Maintenance Mode provides a fantastic way to hide your website behind a curtain, if you will, behind a screen.

And the great thing is you can customise it. You can have countdown clocks. You can have countdown clocks, you can have customised images, you can have customised messages. You can have the ability for someone to email in or contact you. All sorts of really advanced options, again in a very WYSIWYG, easy, easy way to … and by the way, WYSIWYG means what you see is what you get, if you don’t know. I’m not just randomly saying odd words. WYSIWYG means what you see is what you get. It’s an acronym. And it’s very much done in a easy to set up way and enables you to hide your website.

And even if you’re just working on something for half an hour, and you think, “I just need to kind of put my website in maintenance mode for half an hour,” you can do this. You can activate it and then deactivate and user won’t see. They’ll just get a notice saying, “Come back in half an hour” or whatever. So, that’s another thing that I always put on websites, just to ensure that the users don’t get a really odd experience if they’re on the website whilst you’re making changes.

So there’s just a few things, all obviously WordPress based, because that is the CMS that I recommend using, so I hope you found one or more of them are useful and you think you’re going to go and look into them. Best of luck if you do. If you do have any problems, like I said, or if you have any other questions, send me an email, otherwise speak to the actual providers of these plugins or these tools, and I’m sure they will gladly help you out.

That just about wraps it up. Hope this has been really useful for you.

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