I think one of the hardest things about starting a new business is getting over that initial hurdle of the launch and then realizing how much “stuff” you have to do in order to really get your business out there. We’re no longer living in the days where a physical storefront, some foot traffic, and traditional marketing avenues are enough to keep you in business.
Nowadays, you need to be everywhere online, starting with a website.
According to the latest findings by Clutch, 29% of small businesses do not have a website. That’s actually not bad considering the year before 46% of small business owners claimed not to have a website. So we’re definitely headed in the right direction.
That being said, having a website for your business is one thing. Having a high-performance and high-quality website for your business is another. This is why I always recommend that small business owners (or any business owner really) use WordPress to build and manage their website. Sure, there are site builder tools like Wix and Weebly that may seem easier to use and cheaper, but they won’t give your site the smooth, professional polish it really needs to stand out from the competition.
Now, assuming you’ve already done the research and have chosen WordPress as your content management system, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. While WordPress is arguably the best website-building platform, straight out the box, it does have some limitations. Sure, you can create content with ease, but there’s much more that you need to manipulate if you want to maximize your site’s performance, marketing, and design.
Luckily, WordPress has a huge community of web developers and designers who are well-aware of this inherent “flaw” and have created tens of thousands of tools to help business owners and marketers like yourselves create websites that rival the quality of those made by large enterprises.
The following list of 6 WordPress tools is what every small business owner must use on their website, at least to start. Once traffic picks up, and there’s a greater demand to improve your marketing, then you can start exploring more of the tool options and capabilities.
#1: Responsive Theme
The first tool you’ll need for your WordPress site is a theme. This is basically a high-tech design template that’s already been coded for you. In addition, most themes come with more than enough customization options, so even if you pick the same theme as one of your competitors (though that’s not very likely), in the end, they’ll look like completely unique sites.
The one thing you’ll really want to pay attention to when picking out a design for your site is the responsive nature of the design. This means that the design will automatically resize and reposition itself based on the size of the screen people view it from.
You can find all of the free themes available for WordPress here.
#2: Security Plugin
As a business owner, you’ve likely seen the stories in the news about the high-profile company websites or card readers that were hacked. Don’t let those headlines fool you. Small businesses are just as susceptible to security breaches as the big guys are. That’s why a security plugin is one of the first things you need to add to your site. It’ll keep both you and your visitors safe.
Wordfence is one of the highest rated and most well-trusted security plugins.
#3: Optimization Plugin
With rapidly waning attention spans and patience levels, you can’t afford to let your page loading speeds go any higher than three seconds. The only way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to add an optimization plugin to your site. Basically, it uses browser caching in order to reduce the amount of work your site’s server needs to do every time someone new visits the site (or someone returns to it).
W3 Total Cache will take the guesswork out of optimizing your site.
#4: Contact Form Plugin
While WordPress does come with built-in contact form functionality, it’s not very good. If you want to create great-looking forms that visitors will be more than happy to fill out, then you should get yourself a contact form plugin that looks great, works great, and is easy to customize. As a bonus, it would be good to find one that integrates with your email marketing software to easily capture those leads.
Check out Ninja Forms.
#5: SEO Plugin
There’s a lot that search engines are going to ask from you before they’re willing to put your site high up in the rankings. One of those favors they’re going to want is well-crafted content that’s optimized for search. Even if you don’t know a thing about SEO, there are certain rules that are easy enough to abide by once you’re given guidelines to work within. An SEO plugin will provide you with those guidelines.
Yoast does a great job of letting you know when your SEO is on the right track.
#6: Google Analytics
Last, but not least, there’s Google Analytics. Setting your site up with the five tools above is absolutely necessary for your website’s and business’s long-term success. Setting your site up with Google Analytics will ensure that you stay informed as to how those tools and all the work you’ve done on your site have panned out.
Once you have a Google Analytics account set up, use a plugin like the Google Analytics Dashboard to help you implement the tracking code on your site.
One word of caution, as it’s easy to get lost in WordPress’s toolbox: use only what you absolutely need. WordPress may be simple in what it offers, but there’s a reason for that. Simple is always better. It just isn’t always enough.
The six WordPress tools above will be the perfect place for you to start. Then you can branch out from that solid base once your business and website are prepared to do so.
Nathan Oulman Loves to ride ponies in his spare time. When he is not mastering blog posts he writes at Dailyhosting.net which does web hosting reviews.