I’m not going to tell you that you need ALL of these WordPress plugins to run a successful online business.
Most of these plugins simply automate tasks which you would otherwise have to do manually.
That being said, some of these plugins are essentials. I have marked those with an asterix (*).
*1. SSL Certificate (Really Simple SSL)
Switching your site to SSL (from HTTP to HTTPS) is important for 2 reasons. First (the obvious), enhanced security. All data on sites that are HTTPS is encrypted (green lock sign).
The second aspect is perceived trust.
Most Internet users are probably not familiar with the technology behind HTTPS, but they see the green lock sign and perceive the site as safe.
Visitors to your site don’t necessarily buy because they see the green lock sign, but not seeing it can be a reason not to buy.
As for myself, I wouldn’t feel comfortable entering my credit card information on a site that isn’t HTTPS.
Really Simple SSL is the easiest way to switch your WordPress site to SSL. You install the plugin – the rest is done automatically in just a few clicks.
By the way, Google also wants you to secure your site with HTTPS. (Think search engine rankings!)
*2. WordPress Firewall (Sucuri Security)
If you’ve ever had your website hacked, you know how bothersome it can be to fix things (especially if you’re not technically versed).
Every minute that your website isn’t working as it should be, you are missing out on potential revenue – or email subscribers, or whatever your objective is.
You could hire an admin to take care of security matters for you, but that’s going to be expensive and not very effective.
What do you do when there is a need to monitor and protect your site from various threats such as
- Brute Force Attacks
- File Inclusion Exploits
- SQL Injections
- Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
… the list goes on.
You can’t just hope for the best.
You need to be prepared and the best preventative measure is installing a rock-solid firewall.
The monthly plans Sucuri offers are all very good price-value. Starting at ~$16 per month, you get a guaranteed response time of 12 hours. This would be fine for anyone starting out online.
If you have an established online business and there’s more ‘on the line‘, upgrading to the ‘Business‘ plan makes sense.
It comes with a guaranteed response time of 4 hours, Advanced DDoS Protection and Instant Chat Customer Service.
*3. WordPress Backup Tool (Backup Buddy)
Using a firewall and backup tool go hand in hand. The firewall is the first line of defense; for most sites this will suffice in terms of security.
But do you really want to put all of your eggs into one basket?
The best way to diversify risk is by using a backup tool. Should you ever be in a situation in which you need to recover your website (or switch hosting provider), you are able to do that in just a few clicks.
BackupBuddy is the tool I use on ALL of my sites. It allows me to configure scheduled, automatic backups (e.g. weekly, bi-weekly) without needing to do anything manually.
What’s also nice is that I am able to automatically store all backup files at a remote storage location (Amazon S3, Google Drive, Dropbox). Whatever happens to my site, the backup files are unaffected!
BackupBuddy is also very useful should you ever decide to change your domain/URL. Moving your site is done in just a few clicks – as opposed to the manual way which would require you to download all files and MySQL databases … and put everything back together correctly!
4. CSS Hero
If you want to customize your existing website (without switching to an entirely new design), CSS Hero let’s you do that – no coding skills required!
You see, to change the design of your site, you’d have to manually edit the CSS file (stylesheet). To do that, you need to be familiar with color codes and the CSS programming language.
OR you simply install CSS Hero which adds a sidebar interface to your side.
If you’re not sure if this is right for you, you can watch the following video to see CSS Hero in action.
CSS Hero is a good choice if you are already happy with the design of your website but simply want to make a few changes.
If you want an entirely new (professional) design, I recommend you use tools such as ThriveThemes or Themify, both of which come with dozens of awesome templates which you can then customize with just a few clicks.
5. SEM Rush
SEMrush let’s you do a number of things – all of which you could also do manually; you’d simply be wasting a ton of time.
If you’re starting an online business, you can use SEMrush to pinpoint which keywords to target (SEO traffic). If your website is brand new and has no authority, it’s essential to focus on keywords which are less competitive.
If you randomly select keywords, you could end up targeting the ones that are very competitive = zero visitors for you.
The key is to start out focusing on less competitive keywords; as your site matures, you can try to snatch traffic for more competitive terms. SEMrush can tell you exactly which those are – at any given stage.
The other thing that’s very helpful is the ability to spy on your competitors.
Yes, you’ve read that right!
You can literally see which keywords your competitor is targeting and where backlinks originate from. This is very powerful because it allows you to ‘mimic‘ your competitor’s keyword & backlink strategy (to a degree) – thereby save time and money.
If you’re looking to find/buy expired domains, you can use SEMrush to determine the quality of each domain!
*6. E-Mail Marketing (Exit Intent)
Most first-time visitors coming to your website or looking at your product page will leave and never come back again. That’s a fact.
There’s not much you can do to change that.
Optimize your landing page, change your price point. Still, the majority of visitors won’t ever come back.
The only thing you can and should do is try to convert as many of these leaving visitors as possible into email subscribers. Once a person is on your email list, you can stay in touch regularly.
The easiest (and most effective) way to start implementing this email marketing strategy is by adding an exit intent pop-up.
You’ve probably encountered one before.
You are about to leave the site … suddenly a pop-up appears. Each additional email subscriber can mean extra $$$!
*7. Yoast SEO
Maybe you’ve already figured out which keywords (search phrases) to target with your website. That’s the first (essential) step.
However, you website doesn’t automatically rank well in Google.
There are a number of small tweaks you need to make to your website (and each individual page) for Google to show you some love.
Say you decide to target the keyword ‘smartphone accessories‘ – now that keyword should ideally appear a certain number of times on your page. That number needs to be within a certain range (depending on page length).
Add the keyword too rarely and Google won’t rank that page at all. Use it too often and you might get penalized for spamming.
Yoast SEO tells you exactly what you need to change to rank well on Google.
Chances are your competitors aren’t using such a tool, which puts you at a major competitive advantage!
The above-shown analysis happens on an per page basis, which allows you to optimize each page for different keywords.
8. Professional Theme / Landing Page
Picture the following scenario.
You visit a website you’ve never been to.
Before you are even consciously aware of it, you’ve probably made some conclusion about the site already – and decided if you want to stay for a bit longer (or leave right away).
- Does this site look professional?
- Does it look trustworthy?
- Does the page offer what I want?
All of these conclusion happen automatically – within a split second.
If you are using a standard (aka free) template for your site, the answer to all three questions above is probably NO.
Now, you could hire a designer for $1,000+ OR simply invest in a tool that allows you to customize your site.
Thrive Architect allows you to select from more than a few dozen professional website templates – then you are able to make customizations using the drag & drop tool.
I’ve been using ThriveArchitect (formerly know as Thrive Page Builder) for all of my online business.
I have also used other landing page editors such as OptimizePress and Elementor and found that (subjectively speaking) sites designed with ThriveArchitect look more professional.
9. LiveChat Inc
If you are selling a product or service online, you will have a number of people that require some additional information before making the purchase.
You might even have an FAQ section but that doesn’t answer their question either.
They need what you offer NOW, but they are still unsure. You offer email support but that’s too slow for them … so they pick a competitors product.
That’s a very common scenario.
Potential customers visiting your site but having a question or two. With a live chat tool, these customers are able to get in touch with you instantly, have their questions answered and complete the purchase.
LiveChat is also powerful because you get to know exactly which questions potential customers have – you can then address those questions/concerns directly on the sales page or answer them in the FAQ section.
10. KeyCDN (Content Delivery Network)
I’ve talked about the importance of making your website faster. It’s been proven that reduced loading time correlates with a higher conversion rate (= more sales or opt-ins).
Not only that, website speed is also one of many criteria search engines use to rank your site.
What’s A CDN? Why Do You Need One?
I am not going to bother you with the technical details and instead give you the simplified version.
Let’s assume you’ve decided to use BlueHost for your website. Their servers are in the United States, which means your website is in the US. If you have a website visitor from the US, this is fine. Loading time will be quick due to the geographic proximity.
A visitor from elsewhere (Asian, Europe, etc.) would need to wait longer for the page to load. This can lead to lost sales, visitors leaving prematurely and a host of other issues.
KeyCDN makes it so that your website is hosted on multiple servers around the world. Visitors are directed to the version whichever is closest to them = fast loading time = more $$$.
11. WPLegal Pages
This plugin comes with almost two dozen legal templates and let’s you easily customize parts of the pages which are unique to your business/website.
Yes, some would say you could simply copy & paste all these pages from other websites (which is true), but you wouldn’t know whether you are compliant with current Internet laws.
Here are some of the templates that come with WPLegal Pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure
- Earnings Disclaimer
- DMCA Policy
- Refund Policy
In the past, I’ve pointed out that it’s a smart idea to add a contact form to your website.
Not just for the obvious reason (customer support), but mainly so that you as a business owner get to know exactly what people’s needs and concerns are.
This information can be gold because it provides the building blocks of a product or service that you could/should offer.
WPForms is one of many contact form plugins for WordPress. What’s unique about it is that users are able to upload files when filling out the contact form.
Plus, you are able to create forms based on conditional logic.
Based on user input (and pre-defined criteria) certain parts of the form are shown or hidden. This allows you to automatically filter customer queries.
13. Online Payment Processor
If you sell products or services online, you need a way of processing payments. PayPal is the go-to solution for most people, but there are many PayPal alternatives (online payment processors), most of which also have a WordPress plugin for easy integration.
Payment processors that I recommend (other than PayPal):
14. WP Rocket
I have already pointed out why the loading time of your website is more important than you might have previously thought – both in terms of search engine rankings and generating sales.
One way of dramatically speeding up your site is by using a caching plugin.
Let me explain what caching is and why it’s important while leaving out the complex details.
Most websites are generated dynamically. This means any time a visitor arrives, the website (actually the server it is hosted on) needs to perform a number of complicated calculations to display the page.
Think of it as math calculations.
WP Rocket makes it so that the server simply remembers the final result – without having to do the calculations. This, of course, dramatically improves the loading time/speed of your site.
There are many free caching plugins for WordPress (W3 Total Cache being the most popular one) but most offer very limited features compared to WP Rocket.
Chances are you have already seen the following notification on one or more sites you’ve been to.
Maybe knowing that somebody had just bought the product you were looking at and made you curious, thinking, ‘This must be good. Maybe I should buy it as well?‘
I know I’ve had these thoughts.
It’s exactly what the Proven WordPress plugin was intended to do: create social proof.
We see other people (real people) doing something, so naturally we are inclined to follow along.
Using this plugin can really boost conversion rates if you add it to your sales page.
16. WP Notification Bar Pro
I love this WordPress plugin!
Here’s why …
As the name suggests, the plugin let’s you add a custom notification bar (on top of the page). This is a very powerful method for making important announcements for all visitors to be seen – think discount offers, promotions …
WP Notification Bar Pro allows you to create multiple notification bars and test their effectiveness (A/B Split Testing). It also shows view/click stats which is great because you’ll see that the plugin does it’s job: It catches visitors’ attention!
You’ve probably heard or read about Google Analytics. Most likely, you are using it already (you definitely should).
Tracking your visitors (behavior) is critical to understanding the growth of your business, how effective certain marketing efforts are and lastly to keep you motivated.
If you are grinding it out, producing content for your website and see visitor numbers rising – that’s usually enough motivation to keep going.
MonsterInsights takes all the data from your Google Analytics and displays it right in your WordPress dashboard. You don’t need to spend time creating reports to analyse your traffic – MonsterInsights does that automatically.
The MonsterInsights plugin also lets you track a number of other parameters:
- Form Conversions
- File Downloads
- Affiliate Links
- Banner Ads
I recommend you start out using Google Analytics (free) and once your website receives a good amount of traffic (e.g. 5,000+ unique visitors per months), install MonsterInsights.
18. Broken Link Checker
The functionality of this WordPress plugin is very obvious – it scans your site for broken links. Doing that manually would be nearly impossible.
Over time, you might have changed URLs and forgotten to also edit the links that point to that URL. For visitors that might lead to a poor user experience – worst case scenario, they are unable to purchase the product that you are offering.
Broken Link Checker is an entirely free plugin. In my opinion, you can simply install it every few months to scan for broken links, then uninstall it again (as to not to slow down your site’s speed).
To run a successful blog or website, you don’t need to necessarily enable comment functionality.
BUT if you do, you will notice that most of the comments posted are spam.
If you are using WordPress, most of these comments are filtered automatically, some require manually approval.
Still, it’s rather time consuming having to go through a list of 200 comments which require manual approval, of which 180 are spam.
If you have a contact form on your site, you will notice something similar. Most queries you receive are spam emails.
Akismet provides advanced spam protection. It’s really good at doing that.
20. Image Compression
Visuals are an essential part of content online. Most articles would be boring (perhaps even useless) without relevant images/graphics added.
Think pictures for stories, screenshots for tutorials …
The problem is that while graphic elements are important, each that you upload to your site negatively impacts loading speed of your website. The graphic’s file size will determine the degree to which it does this.
Thus, the goals is to reduce the file size of any image as much as possible without reducing the quality of the image (too much).
You can do this manually in Photoshop, or using online services such as TinyJPG. It just takes a lot of time, so it’s smarter to use a WordPress plugin which automatically compresses each image uploaded to your site.
Smush Image Compression is such a plugin.
Must Have WordPress Plugins for Business Websites
To conclude, do you need all of the plugins I’ve mentioned above?
For most online business owners, the answer is NO.
I recommend you go through the list and install those plugins, which are right for you at your current stage:
- To properly secure you site, switch to SSL, use a firewall and backup tool.
- If you notice your site is very slow (or visitors complaining), install a caching plugin and consider using a content delivery network.
- If you sell products/services online, make sure your website and sales pages design is on point. If you are not a designer and don’t want to hire one, ThriveArchitect is what I recommend.