Ever since 2003, WordPress has won hearts and is one of the most preferred platforms for building websites. But, is building website the only task? In this post, I’m about to summarize some of the important areas which website owners should be aware of — and five plugins that we install on every website.
1. Say NO to Spam
Spammers love WordPress as much as we do. As soon as your website starts getting traffic, unsolicited spammers join the party. Spammers generally use automated softwares that visit your website and start submitting forms with irrelevant links to advertise their website and get SEO backlinks.
If you don’t moderate comments, your posts and pages will be filled with tons of content which will affect your SEO score and reader’s experience. Moderating comments and deleting spam emails is an exhausting task. That’s why having a plugin to detect and block spam is important for every website. Below are two best options for you to choose from:
Antispam Bee is a 100% free plugin. We have been using it on our multiple websites and we absolutely love it! The plugin identifies spam with the help of some filters such as IP addresses, comments time, Gravatar, languages, BBCode, local as well as a public database of spammers.
Akismet plugin comes bundled with WordPress and is built by Automattic – the company behind WordPress.com. It is free for personal use and costs $5 per month for one commercial website. If you manage multiple websites, they offer $50 per month plan which will will cover them all.
Akismet runs all incoming comments through their API service to decide whether the comment is spam or not. As Akismet uses an API service that is used by millions of websites, they have smart filters to identify spam. For example – if they detect a spammer on one website, they will protect other websites where Akismet is installed.
Which one should you prefer?
Although Akismet is an inbuilt plugin that comes bundled with WordPress, we prefer Antispam Bee. It is 100% free and does it’s job well.
2. Backups are Crucial!
I am sure you know how important it is to keep a website backup! It makes sure you have the backup of your website ready to replace a broken one in worst cases. There are a number of instances which can cost you your website.
I have seen so many websites breaking down due to a sudden WordPress update, a security attack, etc. We’ve also seen instances when it is difficult to revert back to the older version of the website after making a lot of changes in the current one. This is when you need a backup!
You might think that your web host is reliable enough and keeps a backup that can be restored at such times. But, what if the server itself crashes down? Therefore, you need to realize that although many web hosts tend to keep a backup of your website, you cannot rely on this completely.
You need to be careful and assured that come what may, you can rise up and get working with your website right away. Keeping an off-site backup is always a good practice. You have various plugins that help you do so. Let us take a look at a couple of them.
This plugin makes it easy to restore your website too! It can be done with just a single click. But, at times, restoring a website, restores all the database and files upto a certain point. WP Time Capsule helps you rollback making sure it rolls back only the changes that happened due to an update. The best feature of the WP Time Capsule plugin is that it offers incremental backup that does not get heavy on the servers.
UpdraftPlus is a well-known and widely used WordPress plugin that helps take backups of your website. You can opt to go with the free version or the paid one depending on the features you wish to use.
UpdraftPlus allows you to store your backups in Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud and more along with some additional ones that can be used with the premium version of the plugin.
WP Time Capsule allows you to choose a cloud storage solution to save all your backups. You can choose from Dropbox, Google Drive or Amazon S3. The main USP of this plugin is incremental backups, which keeps the load on your server on a lower side.
Which one should you prefer?
UpdraftPlus is available in the free as well as the paid versions, whereas WP Time Capsule is a “premium only” plugin. We have used both of them and find them equally reliable and trustworthy to save your backups.
As UpdraftPlus is widely used and tested on over a million websites, we would recommend going with it.
3. Keep your Website Safe and Secure!
30% of the web is now covered with WordPress websites. This has therefore become a soft target for hackers and spammers who constantly try to break into your website.
Your website is the online face of your business on the web. Allowing your website to fall prey to such malicious activities might result in a broken website, wrongly displayed content and a bad reputation for your business online. Precaution is better than cure!
There are a number of WordPress plugins that help you secure your website. Install one and protect your website. Let us take a look at a couple of options we recommend.
Available as a free version as well as a premium one, iThemes Security claims to be the best security plugin for your WordPress website. The free version is available on the WordPress repository, while the paid one can be purchased at $197 per year for unlimited sites.
Some of the features we like in this plugin are locking users after a certain number of failed login attempts, email alerts with file change detection, strong password enforcements, changing the default login URL of a WordPress website and more. iThemes Security gives you a better platform to keep your website safe from hackers.
Just like the iThemes Security plugin, WordFence plugin comes as a free and a premium version. It is a well-known and trusted security plugin that is being used since long. They have a dedicated team working solely on security and have also contributed to the security updates of the WordPress core. This makes WordFence a reliable one too!
The Threat Defence Feed shares the latest firewall rules, malware signatures, and malicious IP addresses with WordFence to make it more strong and reliable to fight against the threat. While the free version helps block malicious traffic or those coming from malicious IP’s etc., the premium version of WordFence stops Brute Force attacks permanently and ensures your passwords are strong.
Which one should you prefer?
iThemes Security and WordFence are both good security plugins. They both have active developers backing them with updates. They both have a full featured free version and additional features in the paid one. We, at Brainstorm Force have used both these plugins since they offer network security and reliability.
However, there is just one thing that takes WordFence a step lower; i.e. the load on our servers. This is where iThemes Security wins the race!
4. Make Your Website Search Engine Friendly
Imagine a website that is built beautifully, with all your products and services listed and a very attractive design to hold back visitors. Sounds great?
But, what if this website does not get enough visitors or is not found in search engine results? You cannot rely on a hand full of visitors who come from the other sources. This makes it important that you grab a lot of attention in search engine results and bring in more visitors through them.
There are a number of factors that you can work on. This includes the domain name, the website content and a lot more. But, a few other things can be handled by installing a third party plugin that helps you set up necessary things. Here is what we recommend:
Yoast SEO is an all-in-one SEO plugin that you will need for your WordPress website. It is available as a free version and a premium one.
With Yoast SEO you can
- Set canonical URLs to avoid duplicate content and prevent Google penalties.
- Add better titles and meta descriptions for your website pages.
- SEO and Content analysis: You can write SEO friendly content based on this analysis.
- Manage how your page will look when shared on social media with the social preview feature.
These and a lot more features help you build an SEO friendly website that will help you rank higher in SERPs and bring in more traffic. The reason we trust Yoast is because its been long since they have been active contributors in the WordPress community and it is now a brand well-known in the SEO industry.
Well, although Yoast SEO does its job well, there is just one thing I dislike about it; it is the ugly advertisements that appear in the backend. I guess there are many more like me out there. That is how we have an addon called Hide SEO Bloat that hides all this extra stuff that comes from Yoast SEO.
5. Analyze and Track Your Visitors
Just building a website and expecting people to see it is not what you should aim for. It is important to track your website’s performance so that you know how much you are yielding from all the efforts and expenditures that went into building it.
“You cannot track the efforts until the results are measurable.”
This is where you’ll need to analyze and track user behavior to act according and make necessary changes if things aren’t working as expected. It is important to know what people are liking or disliking on your website, what is bringing in more conversions and what is annoying most of your website visitors. Once these things are clear you’ll be able to improve your website so that it performs better.
It is hard to monitor everything by yourself! This is where you need plugins. Let us take a look at a couple of plugins that will help you with this.
There are different kinds of codes that you will need to insert in the header or footer of your website. Very often this code is added to the theme files. But, seldom do we realize that with a simple switch of theme we’ll be losing the script and code that we added to the files. This is why we need a plugin that manages all such codes on the website.
The Insert Headers and Footers plugin gives you an easy way to do this without touching your theme files. This plugin gives you an easy interface and a single place where you can insert all necessary scripts together. You can insert code like Google Analytics, Custom CSS, Facebook Pixel and more. The advantages of using the Insert Headers and Footers plugin are:
- Since you do not have to play around with files, the plugin allows you to simply paste the script in one place.
- You can prevent errors that can be caused due to mistakenly deleting wrong lines or editing theme files.
- You are assured that the scripts you’ve added will remain even after a theme is updated. You lose nothing!
- It gives you a clear view of all the code you’ve added. You no longer need to search long lines of code. Simply open the
- WordPress dashboard and you’ll see all the scripts and code you’ve added.
The above 5 categories are a must have on every website. But, there are a few more that make things quite easier. Let’s move on to a couple of bonus factors that you would love to use a plugin for.
Let your visitors get in touch with you!
Website visitors often look out for contact information or a form through which they can get in touch with you. It is important to prove that you are reachable in times of need. This is why you need the right contact form plugin that will not only help you display an attractive form, but will also help you manage the submissions you receive through them.
Let us take a quick look at some WordPress plugins that will help you create beautiful contact forms and help you manage them on your website.
WPForms is a beginner-friendly WordPress plugin that provides a powerful drag & drop form builder to help you quickly create responsive contact forms. This plugin provides prebuilt form templates so that you can build form with just a few clicks.
To secure form submission, premium version of the plugin provides spam protection with CAPTCHA and Honeypot method. Upgradation to advanced version brings more flexible features like multipage forms, file uploads, conditions for field visibility, payment gateway integration and much more.
Being a popular form plugin, it allows creating numerous kind of forms like submission, newsletter signup, suggestion, surveys and polls, conversational forms, etc. While enhancing the user experience, this does not put any load on website speed and manages the SEO. This plugin has helpful options while building basic to advance forms for your website.
Caldera Forms is a free WordPress plugin that helps you create responsive forms with a drag and drop editor. They also have a Pro version that comes with reasonable pricing options. With Caldera Forms, you can set up a form with multiple columns. It helps you to funnel user responses with conditional logic. This gives you more relevant information through the submissions of the form.
The best features of Caldera Forms include an intuitive user interface, a drag and drop editor, different field types, conditional logic for form fields, processors and auto-responders, anti-spam, export entries to CSV and a lot more.
Ninja Forms is a free intuitive plugin that lets you create multiple forms using a drag and drop editor. Although its available for free, the addons come along with a paid membership plan. It is a beginner as well as developer friendly plugin as one can create complex forms without a line of code and also use inbuilt hooks and filters to work on it further.
Here are some important features of Ninja Forms
- An intuitive user-friendly interface
- Accepts unlimited number of forms, fields, emails, actions and submissions
- Easy to use fields for particular field types
- Manage, edit or export form submissions
- Email administrator after every form submission
- Form submission via AJAX
- And a lot more
Which one should you prefer?
All the three plugins mentioned above are quite popular and are loved by all their users. It is hard to differentiate among them.
However, if you are looking for a powerful free contact form plugin, I would recommend Contact Form 7 and Caldera Forms. They both have majority of their features covered in the free versions itself. Ninja Forms on the other hand is a little lighter in its free version and you’ll mostly need the membership in case you want to make the most of it.
When Building your Webpages is made easier!
We now come to the final bonus factors in this post: Building a website!
Gone are the days when you had to write lines of code to build a website. With a number of page builders in the market, website building is no longer a complicated task you need to spend days on. Page builders have made it easier for non coders, designers and beginners to focus more on the concept of the page rather than the code that lies behind.
Let us take a look at a couple of page builders that are wooing the market and we love them too!
Available in both; the free and paid version, Beaver Builder comes with a frontend editor and a drag and drop interface that makes website building an easier task. You can simply drag and drop the modules, edit and customize them as per your needs and publish the page.
Some important features that the page builder offers are:
- Number of modules like the Accordion, Heading, Text Editor, Photo, Contact Form, Content Slider, Gallery, Subscriber Form, Testimonials, WooCommerce and a lot more.
- You get responsive full-width and column based layouts to work with.
- You can add your own CSS class and IDs to customize things further.
- Save, export and re-use full page templates, rows and modules.
- A huge collection of ready-to-use full page templates in which you can just tweak the text and images as needed.
Beaver Builder has wooed the market of developers and designers equally. Having earned a lot of love and appreciation from the community, Beaver Builder has encouraged developers like us to contribute back with add-ons like the Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder.
Like Beaver Builder, Elementer is also available in the free and paid version. This page builder also comes with a drag and drop editor that allows you to see all the changes live. It helps you build pages with instant live results.
Features like resizing columns by simply dragging the edges, positioning content within columns, managing column gaps and padding are some unique features that Elementor offers.
Some important features that Elementor offers are:
- You are able to see all the changes live. No need of clicking on a publish or preview button.
- Attractive effects like box shadows, hover effects, headline effects, background overlays, animations, shape dividers and more.
- You can grab templates from the template library that give you a range of well-designed landing page templates that can be tweaked and used directly.
- You can create perfect responsive websites with the easy-to-use mobile editor that helps you build websites based on the device they’ll be viewed on.
There are these and a lot more features that you’ll love in Elementor. Like Beaver Builder, this one too is taking the market by storm.
Which one should you prefer?
The best part about Beaver Builder and Elementor are their frontend editors and the drag and drop interface. This feature makes it easy for anyone; whether a professional or a beginner, to build a website in minutes. Advanced modules, ready-to-use templates and a number of customization options make both these page builders a great choice to begin with.
Although Beaver Builder has a limited number of features in the free version as compared to Elementor, its developer centric approach makes it more extendible.
However, It is hard to differentiate among the two! We, at Brainstorm Force use both of them and love them equally. All I can say is a page builder that will give you all the features that you are looking for, ease your process of website creation and reduce your pain is the best one for you! Since both of them offer a 30 day refund policy, you can give them a try and proceed with the one you like.
Summing it all up!
Plugins are a boon! Yes they are.
They make everything seem so easy and help you keep your website safe and organized so that you are no longer lost in the long lines of code that you need to mess up with. All the plugins mentioned above are our recommendations for you. Afterall, it is your website and we’d love to see it flourish!
Have some plugins that you think are a must for a WordPress website? You can share them in the comments below. We’d love to take a look. 🙂