Why I love WordPress to build any website, plus the top 7 plugins you need

by | Sep 19, 2023 | SEO, WordPress

If you’d asked me 10-15 years ago what website builder or content management system I preferred, I’d be lost to name any of the major players as the business I was working for had a self-built one. Then, I moved to a company running off WordPress. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but I haven’t fallen for any other option that has been released since.

To be fair, the first time I interacted with WordPress, I was overwhelmed, just like any other person who has never looked into the bowels of a website. Add to this, the dev team at my work hacked some extras into the WordPress setup, so it was a bit different from the standard options. But even with all the extras, I got the hang of how to handle things in the backend quite quickly and enjoyed the control we had to make the website what we wanted it to be.

Now when I build websites (I’m up to four in total these days, this one, Where’s Wally H?, My So Called Life Live, and my author site), I automatically choose WordPress to build it. I am happy and comfortable maneuvering my way through the backend. Love the customisable parts and the fact I don’t need to pay a monthly fee to maintain my website. Yes, I pay monthly or yearly for the domain registration and can sometimes get frustrated when things aren’t working the way I want, but I will never not choose WordPress for my website-building needs.

Answers to the most common WordPress fears I find online

It’s so complicated and hard to use

This can be true, but if you get the right theme for WordPress, you’ll find it’s super easy to get used to and customise. When it comes to this objection, I also often find people trying to complicate pages that don’t need to be complicated, like blogs.

I personally use Divi, which comes with its own page builder that includes easy to customise templates for almost every page on your website. They also have a whole host of informational articles or tutorials to help you build and customise your website. When it comes to blogs, I use Divi for the main blog page, and it creates a feed of the most recent blogs. However, with each individual blog, I don’t use my theme builder I stick to the WordPress editor. Now, newer versions of WordPress do include a more complex editor, but there are ways to just use the classic editor where you can just type your blog and insert images in the most simple way for blogs. You don’t need to make this overly complex page full of fancy templates or modules. Keep it simple when it comes to blogs, and let the information shine.

I don’t know how to code and heard you need that for WordPress

Well, yes, having some knowledge of HTML and code can help enhance your use of WordPress. The most important part is choosing the right theme. There is no reason a novice in the online world can’t build a beautiful, functional and accessible website with WordPress. The only reason you’d need to know how to code is if you wanted to customise beyond anything you can find in your theme or any of the thousands of WordPress plugins available online.

I don’t have the time to keep updating the site, which seems to be common with WordPress

Yes, to keep WordPress working at its best and ensuring your website is protected from any new threats, it’s best to keep all the plugins and WordPress itself up to date. However, you can do this by turning auto-update on for the key plugins that help protect the site and also for any updates to WordPress itself. You’d need to keep an eye on any website builder you choose for updates because malware and hackers are always creating ways to get around any protections, which means you need to keep on top of updates everywhere.

7 WordPress plugins that are essential to making it work for you

When setting up a website using WordPress, there are a few plugins that I think should be a must-have to make sure you get the most value out of your website. Below are the 7 WordPress plugins I believe every new website needs:

1. SEO plugin

Search engine optimisation is an integral part of having any sort of online presence, especially a website for business. Now, you can optimise your website for SEO without a plugin, but they just make it all so much easier. From filling out the title tag and meta descriptions to ensuring you have a thorough site map, get a good SEO plugin to help you with everything you need.

My favourite is Yoast SEO. I’ve tried a few others but always come back to good old Yoast. Now, one thing I will say (and Yoast also concurs) is don’t get wrapped up in getting the green light. This is only meant to be a guide for your on-page optimisation efforts, not the goal. This would be similar to other SEO plugins; always use them as a guide, but trust that search engines are smarter than you realise, and as long as you’re creating well-crafted, optimised content your users want to read, you’ll be seeing some SEO benefits.

Feel free to check out other SEO plugins and see which one you find works for you, but the most common answer I find in any SEO community when asking about a WordPress plugin for SEO is Yoast.

2. Cache

A key component to optimising your website for SEO is page speed, which can be heavily impacted by the size of files, especially images on your website, which is why a caching plugin is essential. I do recommend optimising your images before uploading them to your website; however, having a cache plugin will just ensure your site is as light as possible.

You may have a caching plugin attached to your domain hosting, as I do with SiteGround, or you could find one of the many popular caching plugins available online. Now, there are some different types of caching; some only cache images like WP Smush, whilst others will also compress javascript and other parts of your website code that can impact speed, like Hummingbird. You can also get an all-in-one cache plugin like W3 Total Cache that helps compress images as you upload them and also compresses the other site speed-impacting parts of your site. Look around for reviews and ask other business owners for advice on which one to get, but it’s a key plugin to have if you want to boost your SEO.

3. Social Share

Social media is an important part of building a business, and it’s a cornerstone of all marketing plans for businesses, both big and small. One great way to help build your social media is to include a social share option on all your blogs and pages. Humans are simple creatures, and we like to take the easiest possible route, so if you include an option for a user to share directly from the page rather than them having to copy and paste the URL, they’re more likely to act.

When looking at social share plugins, you’ll want to find ones with the option to pre-write some captions. That way, you can include your personal social media handles in there for the users to share. Also, see if you can also get one with the click-to-tweet function and pin it button – yes, these platforms may not be as big as, say, Instagram or Facebook (especially after a certain billionaire bought one of them and is working on destroying it) but it’s still helpful to include these options. Pinterest may not be a platform you use, but it can drive a lot of traffic to your website. Including the option to share it with your users will help build your brand.

This is one plugin where I don’t really have a favourite. I’ve used Sumo, Social Warfare and currently use Monarch because it’s part of Divi,I’d recommend asking around other businesses to see what they use and checking the reviews to help you decide. You can also try different ones out (if they’re free) to test if you like how they look, how they sit on your site and how much users are interacting with them.

4. Contact Form & Email Sign-Up Form

One thing you’ll want on your website is an easy way for users and potential customers to contact you, which means you’ll need a contact form plugin. You’ll find a lot of websites use either Contact Form 7 or WPForms for their contact forms, and it’s really up to you which you choose. There is also sometimes the option to build a contact form within your theme or page builder, but it’s often more user-friendly to get a separate plugin.

The other essential form you’ll need on your website is an email sign-up form to collect the emails of users whom you can then contact and nurture to make them future customers or clients. Most email marketing services offer you the option to build this form inside your account on their website and then embed or insert it into your website. They also all would offer an easy integration with WordPress, including some that offer a plugin. I personally use MailerLite to collect emails and use the MailerLite plugin to build my forms. I also have access to Bloom as part of Divi, where I can create other forms and still integrate with my MailerLite account if needed.

Do your research on which form plugin works for you. There are also options to have a plugin that offers both email sign-ups and contact forms.

5. Page Builder

The biggest complaint I hear about WordPress is that it’s too complicated to build pages, but this all comes down to the page builder you choose to use. A good theme will come with a user-friendly page builder like the page builder included in Divi, which is not only completely customisable but includes a whole host of ready-built templates you can just insert your content and branding into for a beautifully designed website.

If your theme doesn’t include a page builder, there are ones you can add to your website or even if you want to get access to more customizability, you can add a page builder to your WordPress set-up. Some of the ones I’ve used previously include Thrive Theme Builder or WP Bakery, I’ve found them both reasonably easy to use and work for what I needed at the time.

6. eCommerce or Online Store

If you’re a business that sells physical or digital products, then you’re going to want to ensure you have a way to not only list those products on your website but also take payments in a safe and secure way that your customers will trust. This is often the other part of WordPress that people get turned off by. Shopify has become the go-to eCommerce platform due to what most users say is a simple interface that combines the store and all other functions of the website into one place. With a WordPress website, you need to get an eCommerce plugin such as WooCommerce to be able to create an online storefront.

The benefit of using something like WooCommerce with WordPress is that you get all the customisable parts of WordPress and the benefits of the popular eCommerce platform that is WooCommerce. If you run a service-based business, you’re probably not going to be using the eCommerce part of any website regularly, so choose your platform based on your preferences outside the eCommerce factor. It might be better to build a website with WordPress and then, if you choose to create products in the future, add in WooCommerce rather than go straight to a Shopify site if you’re not going to be using the store part straight away.

7. Security

Just because it’s listed last doesn’t make it any less important. In fact, security is probably the most important part of your website. Ensuring that not only your website is protected from being taken over by hackers but also protecting the users who visit your site and interact with it should be a top priority.

So, what security do you need for your WordPress website? As a base, you need to ensure your domain has a security certificate, which means it’s HTTPS, not just an HTTP – this will not only be good for user trust but also SEO. Once you have that, which should be a simple check box in your domain hosting website, you need to look at what parts of your site need some protection. If you have any input fields on your website, such as sign-up forms, contact forms (see above for tips on that) or comments on blogs, you’ll want to get something like a Google ReCaptcha or similar spam protection. This will protect you from being spammed with comments or entries that aren’t relevant and also stop any malicious links from being added to your site by spamming comments.

Look around and check out the reviews for the big spam-preventing plugins such as JetPack or WordFence, and also check if your hosting offers any sort of additional security, such as website protection from hackers.

Well, that’s about it with my love letter, all about how much I love WordPress and all the WordPress Plugin options you should include with your website. I’d love to hear if you are also a WordPress devotee or what you see as the benefits of any other website-building platforms in the market. You can also check out my blog comparing the pros and cons of the most popular website builders if you’re still trying to decide.

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