My Top 8 Easy and Effective WP Plug-ins

Although WordPress comes complete with some pretty useful and nifty stuff to begin with, plug-ins are a handy way to make it even better! As I mentioned last time, not only can they help you customize your blogging site, but they can also make it much more efficient.

To begin with, what is a plug-in exactly?

I’m gonna give you the easier to understand and simplified version, because if you’re like me, you might not understand all of the crazy techno jargon.

Basically, a plug-in is a piece of software that can be added to a website or program in order to alter it in some way or another. For example, you can find a plug-in that adds your social networking links to your blog site so that the reader can click on the icon and go directly to your page.

Plug-ins can add things to your blog site, change the format of certain parts of your site, or even make it more efficient.

If you want to make a change or add something to your site, chances are there is a plug-in that you can install that will do it for you.

That having been said, below are 8 plug-ins that I think are not only very useful, but that are super easy to manage for the WordPress beginners out there.

1. GoogleXML SiteMap

If you only install one outside plug-in to your blogging site, this should be it. The GoogleXML SiteMap plug-in generates a sitemap that helps Google and other search engines to better index and navigate your blog. Not only that, but it notifies all search engines when you create a new blog post.

This is an extremely helpful plug-in in terms of SEO and if you want readers to find you blog, it is a MUST HAVE.

Even better, it’s FREE…so take advantage of it!

2. Contact Me

It is paramount that readers and prospective clients do not have to search for your contact information and that it is always readily available to them. If it isn’t, there’s a good chance that they won’t take the time to find it.

This is such a great plug-in because it ensures that you will never have to worry about losing clients for that reason.

The “Contact Me” plug-in gives you a form that you fill out with all of your contact info. After installation, a stationary link with that information is incorporated into your blog page.

Do you see the blue tab on the right hand side of my blog post? That is what installing it will do for you. Not bad, right?

Cost for this depends on how far you want to go. The simplest version, and the one that I use, is FREE. With it you get a contact form, unlimited contacts and unlimited groups. If you want more features, there are packages starting at about $4.00 a month and increasing depending on what you want.

3. Subscribe 2

One way to make sure that people who have read and liked your blog come back to read more is to incorporate a subscribers list to, or in effect “like,” your blog. The more often someone views your content and is reminded how great of a resource you are, the more likely they will want to use your services.

The reason that the Subscribe 2 plug-in can be so beneficial to you is because it not only creates and maintains a subscriber list for you, but it sends an e-mail out to everyone on that list each time you publish a new post. It also generates a form for your readers to fill out in order to subscribe to your site.

You can customize the e-mails that get sent out to your subscribers as well as the settings for when the e-mails are sent out.

Subscribe 2 can save you a lot of time and effort and will ensure that your readers remain up to date at all times. It is also FREE, meaning that the benefits substantially outweigh the costs because there are none! ; )

4. Akismet

Akismet comes installed with your WordPress blog site, a perk because that means you don’t have to take the time or effort to install it yourself. That being said, you do have to get an API key to activate it.

What Akismet does is prevent comment spam from being posted on your blog. Although I prefer to go over comments myself and manually accept or deny them, it is a great plug-in for people who do not have the time to put into doing blog maintenance every day.

It is a convenience thing, plain and simple. You do not want a blog filled with comment spam. It looks unprofessional and is overall just a turnoff to readers. Akismet filters out all of your spam for you, which leaves you with more time to focus on other things and a pristine wall ready for quality comments and discussion.

5. Digg Digg

Digg Digg is a great little plug-in that adds your social media icons to your blog site. It ensures that it is super easy for your readers to connect with you via FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many other social networking sites.

Not only does it allow you to connect to those sites, but it integrates buttons that show how many users have “liked” or followed your through each networking site as well.

It makes it easy for your readers and potential clients to stay updated on what you are doing and offering and will create more traffic to your networking profiles.

6. All in One SEO Pack

The All in One SEO Pack plug-in is another great SEO tool. It is a plug-in that modifies the options that you have when writing blog posts. What it does is it allows you to add a meta title, meta description, and keywords to your post. These additions increase your search engine optimization exponentially.

The reason why I have not included this higher on my list is because it is not as easy to use as some of the other ones. You cannot just install it and then expect it to work swimmingly for you.

In order to reap the full benefits of this plug-in, you have to put in a little bit of extra work. It is by no means difficult; it just takes a little bit more time, three to five minutes at the most.

Enter in the title of your post, a short description of what your post is about, and your main keywords for better SEO…and voila! Your blog post is set to go and has a better chance of being found by prospective clients.

The basic package is free, or you can buy the pro pack for $40.00-$70.00

7. WordPress Policy Pack

I have just recently found this plug-in, and I love it. Including a terms of use, and disclosure/disclaimer policy in your blog site is very important. However, writing these things can not only be a huge pain in the butt, but super time consuming.

This pack comes equipped with templates for a bunch of important policy pages. You do need to put a little bit of work into it to make sure that each page fits your company and exactly what you want it to say, but all things considered, it makes it a much, Much! easier and less painful process than creating them from scratch.

After you first install the pack, you will need to fill in a form with the necessary information about you and your business. Once this is done, the info will automatically be incorporated into each of the pages that come with the pack.

The next step is deciding which pages you want to be incorporated into your blog. There is a good chance that you will not want to activate each and every page. That’s fine; just don’t check it off when you are choosing the pages that you want.

Simple as that.

You can also edit each page if you feel it does not already address everything, or says something that does not pertain to you and your business, before you put it up.

If you don’t want six to ten new pages created in your Pages menu, it’s simple enough to create one Parent page titled Terms, Policies and Disclaimers. Then you just go in to edit each of the policy pages and select each page’s parent to be your Terms, Policies and Disclaimers page. That way you can set it so that the only page that needs to show up on your menu is the parent page, and each of the individual policy pages can be accessed from the parent page.

Unlike the other plug-ins that I have featured for today, this one isn’t free unfortunately. The package costs a onetime fee of $20.00. Not free, but also not that expensive. And for the time and frustration it saved me, it was very well worth it in my opinion.

Because instead of spending hours creating the terms and policies and disclaimers pages, I spent about 20 minutes total reviewing the pages, and I made a few little tweaks to make them more appropriate to my sites, and it was super simple and painless.

Twenty dollars saved me literally hours upon hours of research and writing time that we would have spent to create our own version of each of the pages.

8. Twitter Tools

Twitter tools can be great, BUT only if you are a Twitter user. What the plug-in does is fully integrate your WP blogging site with your Twitter account. This is great because if people follow either your blog or your Twitter, they in effect get updates on both.

You can alter the settings in order to use it for different things. You can set it up so that each time you make a blog post, a tweet is automatically created with a link to that post. You can also set it up so that recent tweets appear on the right side of your blog, posts are created from each tweet, and you can pass your tweets along to another service.

The extent to which you incorporate your Twitter activity into your blog and vice-versa is completely up to you.

 

Plug-ins enhance the appearance and functionality of your blog. Above are some of my favorites that are really easy, but also very effective. There are MILLIONS out there.

What plug-ins have you found to be especially helpful? Is there one out there that you thought you would really like, but turned out to be a big headache? Share your stories by clicking on the bubble in the upper right hand side of this post or by leaving a comment below.

Until we meet again…make it great!

 

 

Important Things to Incorporate into Your Web Site Continued…

Last week I left you with three different pieces that are essential to include in your business website. Today we’ve got four more things that you’ll want to incorporate into your site.

1. Contact Info

I know that we talked about this last time, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that a potential client can easily find your contact info on every page of your website. People are much more likely to use it if they are being constantly reminded to do so.

There should be an extremely visible link that the reader can click on in order to make contact with you.

You can see mine on the upper right hand side of this blog in blue. It is incorporated into every page and does not move when the reader scrolls up or down.

The site that I used to incorporate the plug-in into my site is ContactMe.com. It’s an easy and super effective way to make sure that it is effortless for potential clients to contact you.

2. Testimonials

Including a few testimonials from past clients who loved your services is a great way to instill a higher level of confidence and trust in potential clients.

Those powerful statements about how passionately you serve and how skilled you are remove any lingering doubt that a potential customer might have. In their minds, if other people have loved you, there is no reason that they won’t as well.

Testimonials should be personal and positive. It is best to avoid using generic compliments and raves because they can come off as disingenuous. You want it to not only be — but come off in writing as — authentic, relatable, specific and personal.

Even better is if the testimonials you get talk about what dire or dramatic position the client was in before they met you, and even the doubts they had that they could be helped.

Then when they explain how powerfully they were impacted by you, it holds even more credibility…and it really helps your prospective clients to see that other people, just like them, have been helped by you and your amazing gifts and talents.

3. Privacy Policy, Terms and Conditions and Disclaimer/Disclosures

The inclusion of all of these things within your website is important as well. They set the rules and regulations that you and anyone with whom you do business dealings with must follow in advance. They explain the rights of both you and those people you work with, and can save your butt in the unlikely and unfortunate event some legal issues arise.

In most cases, the privacy policy goes along the lines that anything disclosed to you by customers or business associates will remain between you and that person. If that is NOT your policy, you need to make it clear because that will most likely be assumed and could be a cause for mistrust if not established from the very beginning.

There are always exceptions to non-disclosure as well. Those need to be stated.

Privacy policies not only protect both you and those you work with in legal situations, but create further trust.

Although much of it is legal jargon, and most people will probably not actually read them, having them available is important.

These additions may seem nitpicky or trivial, they are most certainly NOT and should NOT be forgotten or blown off.

You can either insert these by yourself, or if you use WordPress you can upload plug-ins that will do it for you.

If you do a search on the web, you will find numerous plug-ins that will take care of each for you.

If you want to spend a little bit more money ($20.00), you can buy the WordPress Policy Pack. It not only comes with these three policy pages, but many more and you only have to input your business information once, and it will be applied to each page automatically.

4. Business Blog

A business blog is one of those things that is optional, and that may be more practical and beneficial for some than others.

Obviously, I am an advocate and think that they are a good idea and that they can significantly help a business. After all, you are reading one of my posts right now.

If you want to include one, and have the time to put in to maintain it regularly, GO FOR IT!! If you are just starting out and don’t have the time or effort to put into it, or you just plain don’t want to, then don’t. It’s your prerogative.

There are definitely benefits of having a blog presence though.

Creating multiple posts, and therefore multiple pages, increases your visibility in the endless sea of pages on the internet. The more work you have out there, and the greater the number of times your name is mentioned, the greater the traffic to your website will be.

And it’s another way to connect to and maintain contact with your potential, current and past clients. To potential clients, it serves as proof that you know and care about what you are doing. Your blog can also be a big credibility booster for you.

Business blogs are also a lot less formal than the rest of your website, and you personality can shine through a lot more.

For your current and past clients, it can serve as a reminder of just how great you are and that you will be there in the future if they need or want to use your services again.

Blog writing is a great means through which you can share passion for what you do, form strong blonds and connections with your audience, show your human side and be more relatable. You can showcase yourself and your knowledge, and overall, just have more fun with the work that you love doing. After all, doing what you love is supposed to be enjoyable.

 

Like I said before, there is a lot of freedom that you can take advantage of when you are creating and personalizing your business website. BUT, there are a few essentials that you can’t forget.

Is there anything else that you think should be a part of each and every business website? What kinds of things have and haven’t worked for you on your business site?

Let me know by either leaving a comment by clicking the bubble icon on the upper right hand corner of this post or by making a comment below.

Make it a great week!

 

 

Important Things to Incorporate into Your Web Site

I would like to begin by saying that I hope you got a chance to learn a little bit more about, and perhaps even partake in some of the activities of, Global Entrepreneurship Week last week. After all, it celebrates YOU and your accomplishments and aims to inspire you to reach even higher.

With that said, this week we are back to the topic of your business website. In a previous post, we established that it’s an important facet of your marketing strategy, but what are some of the “must-have” elements that you need to incorporate into your site?

When building your business website, you have a lot of freedom with respect to the layout and overall visual presentation. Your website should be a representation of you, and as such, unique to you.

However, within that freedom naturally comes a framework, meaning that there are a number of elements that you should absolutely incorporate into your website. How you choose to do it is largely up to you.

 

Below are the Top Essential elements that YOUR business websites should have.

1. Easy Navigation

The most important characteristic that your website must have is EASY NAVIGATION. I’m sure that at some point in your virtual adventures you have come upon a site that is just plain confusing and does not seem to want to let you go to the page that you are looking for. Did you stick around, or go somewhere else? I know I for one have moved on. It is pretty likely that you can find the same information somewhere else, so fighting with a difficult website to extract the information that you are looking for just isn’t worth it.

If a website is confusing or difficult to navigate, people will not stay long enough for you to say “Thanks for your interest!” There is nothing that people dislike more than inconvenience and being led on what seems to be a wild goose chase. Easy navigation is key to keeping people around to see what you have to offer.

All links should stand out and it should be blatantly obvious where they go. There should be either a horizontal list of page links at the top or a vertical list along the side of each page. Not only does incorporating this into every page ensure that your potential clients can access whatever page they want at any stage, but it is also a good SEO technique.

However, unless you are creating an authority site – something like CNN.com or another one-stop site for all aspects of a given topic, it is important that you do not create an excessive number of pages either. Keep your navigation bar simple, even if you do have a larger number of pages. Nobody wants to go through a million different links to find all of the information they are looking for. I would limit it to ten links in your navigation menu at most, and less if possible.

Make sure that every main element of your business has a page, and then expound on each element within each page.

Easy navigation is not a difficult concept. If at any point you are unsure about your layout, ask for outside thoughts and opinions. If your non-tech savvy uncle, friend or grandmother finds it confusing or annoying, then other people probably will too.

2. Home Page

Your homepage is what your potential customers will see first. As such, it is essential that you make it engaging and interesting. You want to catch their attention and draw them into exploring your site further.

The last thing you want to do is give them a reason to look elsewhere. It should be professional, but your unique personality should always shine through.

There should absolutely be graphics of some sort, whether it is a picture of you, your work place, or some other aesthetically pleasing image. Graphics catch the eye, and hold attention much more efficiently than text alone does.

Something else that generally does a good job of grabbing potential customers’ attention is a deal of some sort. If you are having a sale or you are offering a desirable product or service for a good price or free, your home page is a great place to showcase it. With the economy in the hole, people are even more apt to look for the best deals they can find.

Your homepage should give the viewer a basic understanding of what your business is about. If you offer multiple services, it’s a good place to include a list of those services. It should be relevant and should promote trust in you and your company.

3. About Page

There should be a page somewhere that summarizes who you are and contains some important information about your business.

Although this page is technically your “About Page,” I would not recommend that you actually label the link that way. It is too generic, and says nothing about you or your business.

Use something that is more personal, which could even be the name of you or your business. This is a great place to show why YOU are the best person to help them resolve their problem and why.

Even though the About page is theoretically about you, you still need to maintain your focus on who your potential clients are, and why they’re looking for you and your expertise. You MUST speak to them where they’re at.

As you explain what you do, why you do what you do, your vision as an entrepreneur, etc. on your About page, you must at the same time be focused primarily on them and how and why your services are exactly what they need right now.

How do you solve their problems?

For example, if you’re a real-estate agent that specializes in downsizing seniors, you need to know why they (or a family member) is on your website looking into you and your services.

What is the conversation going on in their head?

Perhaps that conversation goes something like this:

“I need to move into a smaller house – this four bedroom place is too big for me now that my spouse has died. I can’t keep it up anymore. The maintenance is too much for me, and it’s got too many painful memories – but heck, we’ve lived here for 28 years, and I can’t bear the thought of leaving; it’s all so overwhelming.

And I don’t know the first thing about selling a house these days – it’s changed so much since we bought this place almost thirty years ago – it’s so much more complicated. I’m terrified that I won’t understand it at all – and what am I going to do with all this stuff we’ve accumulated over the past 30 years?

If I move to a smaller place, I’ll have to get rid of some of my collections and antiques, not to mention just all the furniture and where will I go?

How will I ever find another place…blah, blah,blah.”

So how do you respond to that? Even though your About Page is presumably about you, in reality it needs to be about them first and how what you do can help them. So your About page will talk about you in a way that builds credibility and authority in the arena where they need help.

It will most likely be the most personal of your pages and it should help potential customers relate to you and form a bond of trust.

So…yes. You can explain that you were born and raised in the local area, but explain why that matters to your prospective client.

You can explain your passions, your hobbies, your interests, but be sure to tie that back in to them and where they are when they’re looking for you.

If you have a special degree, certifications or whatever, explain why that’s relevant to them from where they’re sitting right now – and where they’re sitting right now is considering whether or not you’re a fit for them.

So I recommend that you don’t talk about your parakeet collection or the fact that you lived in a commune for 8 years unless you can find a way to tie it in with your expertise, your skills, or your blessings in a way that matters to them.

Other important information that you can add to this page, and that needs to be easily attained somewhere on your site, is your business hours and location and your contact information.

Depending on what you do, your business may or may not have a physical address. If it does, you need to make it visible and easy to find.

Linking it to Google Maps makes it easy to get directions to your place of business and helps the viewer calculate his or her bearings.

Hours of availability are also something that needs to highly visible and would fit in great on your about page.

Although your contact information should be accessible from every page, it is a good idea to organize it into a section that on the about page as well.

 

Next week, we’ll continue on with several more important parts of your website that you won’t want to forget. Come back to make sure that you cover all of the angles that need to be covered in order to ensure greater success for you and your business!!

Until next Tuesday, go out and make it a great week! : )