Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the best free WordPress plugins for your business website- or at least, some of the best that we’ve found. There are several big name plugins (Yoast comes to mind, as does WP Optimize) that most lists tend to contain, and while we generally agree that those plugins are incredible and worthy of your download, in this article, we are going to explore some of the ones that might not get quite as much attention.
One of the best things about WordPress is the fact that almost anyone can solve their own particular challenges just by knowing what the challenge is. If for instance, you know that you want help putting a piece of code in the header of a particular page without putting it on all of the other pages in your site, you can search for a plugin that will handle that issue. If you want to start recording how many people are visiting individual pages on your site, there is a plugin for that. Plugins are -obviously ridiculously powerful tools- but some are better for certain sites than others. The 5 plugins we will be reviewing today are ones that we usually install on our own client sites, and all are used to make their sites more professional, more secure, and more powerful.
I love HubSpot. They make one heck of a product and they arguably blazed the trail for inbound marketing as an art and a science. Their product continuously adapts to the market and their team is nothing if not ridiculously helpful. The problem is that they are also prohibitively expensive for many business, and they aren’t known for playing in the WordPress sandbox. Until now…
Leadin is a great plugin brought to us (in a round about way) by HubSpot. The Leadin app is a free plugin that integrates seamlessly with your standard WordPress.org site and it gives you some of the most sought after tools in the HubSpot quiver, including a fantastic lead scoring tool!
Lead Scoring allows you to track your visitors as they move around your site. It shows you what content they have viewed, how many (and which pages) they traveled through, and – if they fill in a webform- it will give you some great insights into the lead, such as their name, their company, information about the company, and social profiles for the lead.
This is HUGE. When you are trying to decide if a lead on your site is marketing or sales qualified, this will help you understand the lead’s background and their intent! If your business is in the commercial remodeling industry and you see that a lead on your site has been viewing pages about remodeling break rooms and that they have come to your site 3 days in a row before filling out a form…and that they viewed your pricing page before asking for information, you can make the assumption that they are most likely a true sales-qualified lead!
They plugin also allows you to build some simple but nice contact forms (including pop up forms) and to store/analyze the information about the people visiting your site.
By no means is LeadIn as full featured as HubSpot, but it’s still one of the best free wordpress plugins none the less and it is a great set of training wheels for learning the art of Lead Scoring!
Several months ago I logged onto this site and found that it had been hacked by a group claiming to be Russian backed freedom fighters. Whether or not that’s truly who they were, what I can vouch for is that it was a pain in the backside to get the site back up and running. I’d clean it off with a restore, then clean the infected code, and change all the login information, and 2 days later, the site would get hijacked again. Sure, I could keep cleaning it up, but it was a time consuming and frustrating process that required more time and attention that I really had to give it.
Then I found Sucuri.
There are several versions of Sucuri, but this article is all about the free (or at least the free level of “freemium”) plugins, so we’re just going to start with the basic package, and in this case, the free version blew me away!
It did a great in depth scan of my site, helped me figure out where the hackers were gaining access (it turned out to be through a trapdoor in a plugin that had always been very reliable until that point), it helped me clean the problem off the site, and it put up a “fence” that has successfully helped prevent any further problems.
My personal favorite feature though? It will send you an email anytime that someone attempts to login to the dashboard of your wordpress site, whether they are successful or not! I’ve installed the plugin on client sites several times since then and I have watched in real time as hackers unsuccessfully attempt to figure out passwords over and over before finally giving up. It will even email you when there is a new post on your page so that you can keep track of any time your site is updated- and with what!
Contact forms are where websites can make fortunes…or lose them.
People put a lot of effort into things like slider or animations – features that are eye catching and “cool”, while slapping cookie cutter contact forms onto a contact page and hoping for the best.
Now, the unfortunate fact is that a lot of people don’t realize just how important the contact form is. It’s the moment when people consent to starting a relationship with you. Even worse, most people don’t really know HOW to create a good contact form, so they rely on pre-built pieces that often suffer from very poor functionality, boring aesthetics, and an inability to “speak” with 3rd party apps ,plugins, and softwares.
NinjaForms has been a great solution to the challenge of finding a fully featured and reliable contact form builder!
The plugin (a freemium piece) has tons of functionality at the free level, and within about 20 minutes, you can be pretty handy in the interface. You can build some very nice contact forms with a drag and drop editor, create multiple forms to use on different pages, set triggers on the back end so that people who fill out your forms can be redirected to the Thank You Page of your choice. It will send emails to both your contact and yourself, and even keep track of who has submitted through which form.
For a few dollars extra, you can add even more functionality through the premium options that will interact with a literal phone book of 3rd party softwares.
Best of all? The plugin is well updated, safe, and reliable, which is more than we can say for the vast majority of other contact form plugins!
Out of all of the plugins on this review, this is the one I have been using the longest on my own websites.
When I first started building WordPress sites for small businesses in 2010, I was blown away by all the amazing things that the platform would allow me to do with relatively little effort, but one thing bugged me- the widget area of my site was hard to customize.
Sure, I could find loads of preformatted widgets that would handle specific tasks that their programmer set out, but if I wanted to customize something with HTML, I was out of luck. That’s when I found the TinyMCE Widget plugin and everything changed.
The plugin allows you to drop a blank slate of either text, rich text, or html into your widget bar to customize it as you like. Add photos and links, embedded videos, switch fonts…really, it allows you to create and edit custom widgets to your heart’s content.
There are other plugins that have similar intentions , but this is the (well updated) granddaddy of them all, and for my money, the more reliable and user friendly WYSIWYG widget editor available .
After talking about Sucuri, I don’t want to give the impression that the world of business websites is all about disaster striking, but…well…sometimes it is. I personally have never lost a site, but I know more than one person who has, and having your site disappear into limbo (along with your many MANY hours of hard work) is soul crushing. That’s why it’s so important to have a good back up plugin, and for my money Updraft is the best free wordpres plugin to go with.
There is nothing incredibly sexy about what UpdraftPlus does, but much like the air that we breathe, you’ll certainly notice it if it’s not there when you need it!
The plugin is pretty simple. You still stall it, and here and there (and always before a big change or update your site) you click the button that puts the app to work creating a back up copy of your WordPress page. Personally, I always take it up on it’s option to download a copy of your site, just for the added peace of mind it brings to a paranoid mind like mine…
…of course you’re only paranoid if it turns out you’re wrong, right?
Tools don’t make the marketer, but they sure as heck make the marketer market better! One of the questions we get asked oh so often is what tools we suggest. Well, suggestion a tool and actually USING a tool are two different things. Internet Marketing Agencies don’t usually kick your results up a notch strictly by intuitively knowing how to tweak word here and by throwing a switch there- they use tools to boost their own skills. Here are 6 of the tools we use for our own clients- and we know we aren’t alone!
BuzzSumo is a Freemium online application made to help content marketers research and create the kind of content that people care about, as well as to help determine who already has a proven interest in those topics.
Simply pop a topic you are thinking about covering and BuzzSumo will show you the most popular existing content about that topic as determined by the number of times that content has been shared. You can break down those shares by how/where those shares happened, and even trace back where back links to the article are coming from. This is great for deciding if a topic has sufficient interest to justify your time to write about it, and it will give a you a leg up on finding out who might be interested in linking to or sharing your finished product.
The paid versions of the tool add more tools like unrestricted and unlimited searches exportable data, trend tracking, and outreach lists which are great for white hat link building.
If your agency is being tasked with creating the kind of content that will drive more traffic and ultimately more qualified leads to your website, knowing what sort of content is already working is huge. It’s always easier and more effective to drop your line where the fish are already swimming. Likewise, it will help your agency to know what influencers may already be showing an interest in that topic as they are the most likely to help share that content and link to it.
It’s free to use BuzzSumo for a half dozen searches a day. These searches are limited to basic information such as a link to the article itself, a run down of where that piece has been shared, and a view as to how many shares there are.
To dive deeper and unlock unlimited daily searches, you can sign up for one of the 3 premium plans which start at $99 a month and go up to $1000.
Chances are, you are already familiar with Hootsuite, by name if not by reputation. The tool is one of the two most well known social media dashboards in existence, and for our money, it’s the most useful one that we have come by.
Hootsuite allows you to connect multiple social media platforms under one dashboard, which is a great time saver if you have more than one or two platforms to updated. Unfortunately, that seems to be where most people stop using the tool, which is a real shame as that just scratches the surface of what this tool is capable of doing!
The tool also has some great conversation and tracking abilities, a fantastic tool for pre-scheduling content, a very easy to understand analytics platform for tracking how well your posts are doing, and an app store which gives you access to dozens of extensions to further power-up the tool with various 3rd party integrations.
If your agency is helping you with your social media marketing, chances are that they are either using Hootsuite or HubSpot (or possibly even both). Besides the fact that it adds a huge level of convenience to the mix, the fact that you can bulk-upload updates (with the premium version of the tool) allow an agency to plan entire months of a social media campaign in advance.
The “Pro” plan starts at $9.99 a month for vastly expanded options, though you can add ala carte items through the Hootsuite store. Of course, there is a free trial of the Pro option, and you can always use the free version which is still an incredibly useful tool!
Twitter is one of the “Big 3” social networks that everyone knows they need to have a presence on, and yet so few people really seem to understand how it works. Companies pay so-called extras to delivery hundreds or thousands of followers in the mistaken assumption that this will make your company look more sought after and drive new business. They blindly follow anyone and everyone they come across, and they never really stop to see just how their content affects their success (or lack of) with building their brand online. Crowdfire is designed to help correct those lazy habits!
Launched in 2010, Crowdfire gives you a dashboard where you can quickly see stats such as who has followed you, who has unfollowed you, who you follow that doesn’t follow you back, when people started or stopped following you, and it even gives you suggestions as to whom you might want to connect with based on the people who are already interacting with you! The tool also gives you the ability to set up an autoresponder so that whenever someone begins to follow you, they will receive a private message of your choice.
Most agencies who know what they are doing will tell you that a million on one inactive or unmotivated followers will hurt you rather than help you, and that following a lot of people who don’t follow you back (or whom stop following you once you follow them) is equally detrimental to your Twitter strategy. Crowdfire makes it much easier for your agency (or for you) to keep your list clean and balanced. Like wise, it can help with your link building strategy by giving you strategic suggestions for whom to connect with. Many of these suggestions are the type of people who make great candidates to help share your content- assuming it’s great content of course!
The starter edition of Crowdfire is free, and it has all of the basic but awesome tools that I’ve already mentioned. More in depth options exist in a variety of premium packages starting at $9.99 per month.
Keyword.io (that’s the web address by the way) does exactly what it sounds like it does: it helps you discover and plan keywords for your content!
Ever since Google started making changes to their own keyword tools a few years ago, marketers have been scrambling to find simple to use tools that will help them come up with the magic phrases that will make their content rank well with the search engines, and Keyword.io is all about ease of use! You simply pop a topic into the bar, and boom- out comes up to 750 suggestions
Because the tool isn’t an actual google product, it can’t show you actual data from the search giant based on your site like the Google keyword tools do, but it does base it’s suggestions in part off of data it pulls from the Google Search Box. For quickly discovering long-tail keywords, this tools is fantastic!
I’d be lying if I said that most agencies have given up on using the Google Keyword Planner for doing key word research. At the end of the day, that’s a tool that every marketer needs to use to the best of their ability. The Keyword.io tool is a great addition though, and for quicker/easier suggestions, this is a the new go-to tool.
The basic version of this tool is free- you don’t even have to login anywhere! If you need to kick things up a notch though, you can upgade to the pro plan to get twice as many long tail suggestions, tons of additional information that is hard to get through the traditional Google Keyword Planner, and – if I am being honest- a much easier to digest dashboard than any other keyword tool I have come across! The pro version starts at $48 a month and goes up to $88.
I’m not sure if Basecamp is the world’s #1 project management software, but it certainly is the most popular one for agencies!
Basecamp is a simple to use and full featured project management platform that allows teams to corroborate on project, create and complete to-do lists, create web-based text documents, share files, view milestones, track time, message in real time, and even create “client portals” which allow clients to view certain portions of a project but not others.
Besides the obvious answer of “they use it to manage your projects”, they are probably also using it to keep track of billable hours, keep historical records of what they have done (what has and what has not worked), and use the Client Portal function as a bit of a marketing tool to help show what they are doing for your company. The version you see will most likely be a very clean version of what the internet marketing agency sees, and most agencies will allow commenting through the client portal, but not the ability for the client to make further changes.
The base package of Basecamp is $29, and for businesses that don’t need the client facing portion, this $29 package is probably all you will ever be, but if you need the “Clientside” product, you’ll jump up to $79 per month.
I actually have a soft spot for web tools that actually tell you what they are in their names. Nothing is quite as irritating as having to do a bunch of research just to translate a “fun” and “quirky” name into what it actually does. In this case, HubSpot’s Website Grader is exactly what it sounds like- a great (free) tool to help you (or your agency) figure a rough idea of where your current website stands in terms of things like accessibility, SEO, social media, and blogging.
It’s not an exact science, but it IS a great way to get a base reading on ROUGHLY where you site is strong and where it needs help. There are issues…the grader doesn’t always recognize the plugins or the programs you may have built into your system…For instance, we use a marketing automation system that the HubSpot grader doesn’t recognize, and likewise it doesn’t seem to read our preferred social sharing plugin (and because of those two things going unrecognized, it penalizes our site’s score by a few points), but it’s still a great way to see the general areas you have been successful in, and a great reminder of what pieces may have gone ignored!
While it’s no surprise that most of the HubSpot partner agencies make the Website Grader one of their first stops when they are talking to a client (or potential client), you’d be amazed by how many other agencies use it as well. It’s a great way for an internet marketing agency to see where they can help the most and to do it without spending valuable time and resources on an in-depth audit at a time where they may not yet have secured the client.
Free- and you can’t beat that, can you?
(Guest Post by Felix Tarcomnicu )
Despite the tighter regulations imposed by search giants ( particularly Google ), on the use of back links, building those links remains a valuable strategy in generating organic inbound traffic.
The truth of the matter is there are ways and means to develop back links that will conform to Google’s guidelines and still yield productive results for your SEO efforts.
Here are five smart ways to build back links and improve SEO:
Everyone in SEO has probably bled the term “Great Content” dry. Ever since Google introduced its search engine directives related to a change in its algorithm, the need for great content has been at the forefront of SEO.
There is no doubt creating great content will help generate back links. If people love what they read and see value and relevance in the content, they will share or re-distribute it. But in order to maximize your blog, it must be kept active or dynamic.
It’s not just about creating great content. You should look beyond your comfort zone and explore other ways to keep the interest going.
The best content should be relevant, engaging and addresses a specific concern of the audience. Often, a single piece will not be enough. Explore your creativity by adapting techniques to keep content fully charged.
We’ve often read SEO professionals recommend webinars as an effective way for link building but how does it work?
Keep in mind these tips when conceptualizing your webinar:
In order to encourage organic back linking, you must consistently reach out to related resources or potential affiliates. In a way you are networking with people and communities that see value in developing strategic partnerships.
Who says that going the traditional route is obsolete in the digital world? Traditional networking may be inefficient but it still has redeeming values.
For one, leg work gets you involved and engaged directly with your prospective market. Second, greater connectivity is established when content is directly handheld. I am referring to newspapers, books, magazines and newsletters.
Even though the use of paper has been labeled “non-green” and financially inefficient, it still made content resonate louder and clearer than digital methods. You can merge old school tactics with digital techniques to build good quality back links to your website.
These are just a few of the best actionable ideas to help you attract organic link building to your website.
The bottom-line is to be creative with your approach and find new avenues to get your content found. In the virtual world, there are no boundaries. There will always be opportunities to expand your reach and coverage.
By Laura Andrews
Chances are- if you build your business by attracting guests OFFLINE as well as on, you’ve at one point or another spent time looking for ways to promote an event (events?) on a budget. Look no further! The following five tactics on how to promote an event online will help you promote, promote, promote… and save, save, save.
1) Utilize social media
Yes this is quite a broad bullet point, but that’s good. That means there are many different ways to use social media to your advantage.
Here are just a few ideas:
2) Step up your email marketing
Already have a current e-mail distribution list set up? Great, reach out to those people and let them know about your upcoming event. Don’t have a list yet? No problem. You can purchase a list from a third-party for a small amount of money or use this event as a way to grow your list for future uses. Include ways for your guests to sign up during the event to be on the list and make sure you grab their email addresses during the registration process! You can even include an opt-in box before they check out online.
If you are promoting a reoccurring event, don’t forget to email past attendees with details and even a coupon code to get them to become regulars.
3) Make it easy for visitors to share your event info
We all like easy right? So do your potential attendees. Don’t forget to include a ‘Register Now’ button on your website or event landing page and social sharing buttons as well.
If your event is set up for online ticketing give your attendees an option to share that they’re going to your event on all social media channels. Allowing their friends to see your event info will only help spread that word-of-mouth quickly!
4) Tease us!
Give potential attendees a small taste of what your event is going to be like. Tease them! Distribute YouTube videos of speakers, event highlights, past event pictures, etc. prior to event. Show potential attendees what they are going to miss if they don’t come to your event.
Utilize your social media channels as well and post event information, photos, and videos as teasers. If the event is more than one day, post throughout the event to continue to market.
Remember: Don’t give it all away at once, but a little here and there never hurt anyone!
5) Do some good ole fashioned blogging
You know all that content you’re pushing on social media and all of those teasers you’ve dutifully crafted? Keep using that content and create blog posts along the way. Write blog posts on your website leading up to the event highlighting the speakers and activities. If possible, get speakers or people associated with the event (partners or vendors) to blog as well and share content with them across their marketing channels.
Ready to sell out your event and not break the bank? Take these tips above and you’re on the path to event success!
Event Marketing is a great way to get some to make your customers really feel like they are part of your brand. Though it’s one of the most expensive ways to build your audience, it’s also – dollar for dollar- proven to be one of the best ways to make big strides…if you know what you are doing! If you’re looking for more ways to make the most out of your marketing program (and avoiding some of the costly or time-sucking pitfalls ), why not subscribe to the RipList?
The RipList is an occasional email chock full of ACTIONABLE marketing strategies and hacks that will help you and your company reach more target customers more often. It’s all about things you can do yourself today!
Interested in giving the RipList a spin? Start receiving it free by subscribing in the orange box to your right!
We’ve all experienced the disappointment of spending some serious time and effort carefully crafting an awesome blog post, only to have it sit untouched and unloved when the audiences just don’t show up. Businesses find a particularly challenging road to getting eyes on their blogs since most of their blogs are simply self serving advertisements that people will actually go out of their way to avoid.
Still, for the businesses that are actually putting out useful audience-first content, there are 3 VERY easy things you can do after every blog post that will up the chances that people will at least know your content exists. These are simple, fast, and free. None of them will suddenly drop thousands of eyes onto your blog where there were no views before, but they will definitely give you that little push to get you started with building an audience for your blog!
1. Post the URL to Google + – This is one of those things we ALL know we should be doing, and yet – in a world of Facebook and Twitter, we never really remember to do, and that’s a shame. It’s no huge secret that Google gives extra “Google Juice” to the products it owns, and in an attempt to get us all to “finally come around” to the red-headed step child of a social network, Google gives content posted on Google + a little extra power over content posted on the more popular networks.
Admittedly, there aren’t as many people who are going to see your post there (I’ve heard people joke that if Facebook is a bustling world of it’s own, you could probably fire off a cannon on Google +’s main thoroughfare and not hit anyone), but that’s not really what you are for. The biggest reason to post your article on Google + is to get it quickly indexed and moved a few paces forward on Google.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any human eyes on Google + though. I keep finding articles about people (some of them are even major influencers in the business, marketing, and tech worlds) who actually prefer the platform over the more commercialized Facebook and Twitter, so definitely, make sure that what you post there still makes sense for human consumption. Still, for those of us to believe in keeping things simple, focus on Facebook and Twitter for human audiences, and Google + for technical reasons.keep reading
Generally, most of us are good at a handful of things, and are REALLY good at a couple of those… unless Content Marketing is one of those things that you are particularly good at, here in Central Florida, it usually makes more sense to get some help from a professional Content Marketing agency. “Good” Content Marketing requires a mind for copy writing, visual design, data analytics, web design, search engine optimization, sales, story telling, psychology, and about a dozen other talents that you either possess…or…you don’t. If your skills are aren’t directly in line with those things, you’re probably better served by focusing your time and energy on the things that you really do specialize in and letting someone else handle (or at least help with) the marketing.
Before you reach out to an Orlando Content Marketing agency though, there are three important things you need to do first, and as a warning, they all require you to open yourself up to some hard truths and different ways of thinking.
Of course, one could argue that we are a bit biased (and one would be correct), but the fact is that GOOD Content Marketing does “work”. It will help you and your organisation attract new viewers and prospects, it will help you keep those same people engaged and ultimately help you convert more of those people to customers/clients, it will help you establish yourself as a thought leader and expert, it will help boost your website’s SEO, and most importantly, it will help your company understand it’s client and even itself better.
That’s what GOOD Content Marketing does.
BAD Content will scare aware potential clients/customers. It will establish you as -at best -incompetent (and at worst? Well, let’s just say that there are a lot of people we all avoid because of how they present themselves. I’m sure you have a few creative terms for those people). It will waste time, waste resources, and force you into a spending your time on damage control. Thankfully though, there isn’t a whole lot of “Bad” Content Marketing these days. Most Content Marketing isn’t “good” or “bad” . It’s just pointless.
What does this “Meh” level of Content Marketing do? Nothing. It does nothing at all. It just takes up space and distracts you from doing something more useful.
This do-nothing Content Marketing is usually the results of companies not realizing what Content Marketing CAN’T do. It can’t overcome a lack of direction. It can’t be at once both successful and unfocused. It can’t fill your coffers until it has had the time to do what it was designed to do (build relationships and create trust). It can’t “go viral” just because someone wants it to. Most of all, it can’t be viewed as a quick fix because it’s not. It’s a long term investment, but done correctly, an investment that pays dividends.