Websites need to fulfill many roles for business today. They are tools for building relationships with clients, they are stores, branding tools, and they are content libraries for customers and employees alike. To make all of this possible, a modern website needs to be easy to use and be built on a Content Management System. These come in many different flavors from proprietary to open source, each having their pros and cons.
As professional web developers we have used many systems and learned from real world experience what works and what doesn’t. Based on a lot of hard work and testing, we have landed resoundingly on WordPress. It is an open source system that rivals any other but really tips the scales on ease of use for clients. It also has a vast network of plug-ins that extend the functionality of the core system. There are thousands of plugins available that are vetted for security by the WordPress community. Most are free but the ever expanding use of WordPress in the commercial world has created a whole niche industry of very advanced plug-ins that are available for sale that provide even greater functionality at a very affordable price.
Since we use quite a few of these plug-ins on a regular basis we thought we would share our favorites for business websites. The following represent (in no particular order) some of our go-to plugins that might be helpful for your business website as well.
1. Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin keeps tabs on the content of your site and rewrites your sitemap at regular intervals. It also pings search engines to alert them of new content. It’s smart for your organic performance and it doesn’t get any simpler than this great plug-in.
2. Google XML Sitemaps for Video – It’s the kid brother of the full XML sitemap plugin and if your site has any video content (which it should) this little plugin makes it more likely that it will be crawled and categorized. This means a greater opportunity to show up in Universal Search and outgun the other organic listings next to you with a big video thumbnail.
3. Gravity Forms – This is the best form plugin we have found. It’s not free but it’s well worth the cost. It includes the ability to develop complex logic forms and track data. It also include really nice extensions that allow for integration with Sales Force, Constant Contact and many other online marketing tools that we often find ourselves integrating into business customers websites.
4. All-in-One Event Calendar – If you have a regular schedule of events you need to broadcast to your audience, this calendar system combines a clean visual design, and a powerful set of features to create the most advanced calendar system available for WordPress. It’s completely free and also includes Facebook Integration, and an interesting Posterboard View that displays events like a Pinterest board.
5. Woo Commerce – We have tried many of the cart solutions out there and we settled on Woo Commerce. It delivers enterprise-level features all within the WordPress CMS. This robust system is based on a core plugin that provides the basic store functionality. It is then extended by a collection of modules that can be added to design the custom commerce experiences our customers need.
6. NextGen Gallery – This handy plugin provides a powerful engine for uploading and managing galleries of images, with the ability to batch upload, import meta data, add, delete, group galleries into albums, and more. It also provides two front-end display styles (slideshows and thumbnail galleries), both of which come with a wide array of options for controlling size, style, timing, transitions, controls, lightbox effects, and more.
7. WP Socializer – This is a very robust tool for adding social badges and links to any site. A necessity for social media marketing efforts, it offers the ability to easily add tools above or below content as well as a floating bar option. Very cool.
8. TubePress – This plugin comes in handy for displaying YouTube and Vimeo galleries in your posts, pages, and/or sidebar. If you are developing a site that has more than a couple of videos this will come in handy for category pages and other topical groupings.
9. Google Author Link – Many themes and developers are incorporating the code to allow for authorship data without a plugin. If you are using an older theme this plugin will allow you to manage your Google Authorship.
10. MapPress Easy Google Maps – The MapPress plugin is the easiest way to add Google Maps and directions to your WordPress site. We use MapPress Pro because it offers many additional features, including custom icons, mashup maps, marker lists, map generation from custom fields, and more. If you need maps on your site this is a great solution.
There are many other plugins we use that cater to specific businesses and endeavors including booking calendars, donation modules for not-for-profit businesses and more. It’s one of the great things about WordPress. The possibilities with available plugins are almost limitless.
So whether you are looking to add some functionality to your existing site or if you are developing a new website for your business, consider adding these go-to plugins we use to create a better marketing tool.