Just got off the phone with a Facebook friend in Manchester. Saz Bailey is doing some amazing things with her business and is launching a new blog to chronicle her journey to rehab a home for her handicapped son.
We discussed the ideal configuration for her new WordPress site, and that inspired me to create a short and updated post for my recommended gear.
If you want to develop your own new business site using WordPress, this is a list of recommendations that’ll get you off to the races. It’s fun!
btw…most of this gear is free. Some of it costs a few bucks. If you’ve followed the blog for any length of time, you know I never recommend anything I haven’t tested and used extensively here.
Recommended WordPress Themes
The two frameworks we use most often…
Headway – Easiest to use visual designer I’ve ever used. If you have a vision but don’t want to pay for professional design work, this is what you need.
Genesis – One of the best coded and well-supported frameworks on the market. You simply can’t go wrong with Genesis and one of their child themes.
Recommended WordPress Plugins
This list is in no way meant to be exhaustive. These are however, plugins I consider fundamental to nearly every install we do…
404 Redirection – This fixes any and all 404 errors in one fell swoop. Woot!
Backup Buddy – Here’s the thing…when (not if…when) your site gets busted or hacked, you’ll KICK yourself in the FACE if you don’t have a properly created back up. It’s amazing how many WP sites have no back up strategy at all. Everything on the internet breaks on occasion. If you have a backup, you can restore your site in minutes. If you don’t, it’s too late. Don’t get caught with your pants down, yo.
Bulletproof Security – Security! This blocks SQL injection and a host of other common attacks using a totally different level of security than other solutions. The most effective I’ve seen.
Contact Form 7 – For many years now…one of the best and free plugins for contact form creation.
Google XML Sitemaps – If search engine visibility is important to you, use this. Don’t ask any damn questions. Just install it 😉
Instabuilder – This gives you the tools to easily create lead capture pages, sales pages and sales funnels. Yes, there are LOADS of solutions for this these days. The next time you and I drink bourbon together (you’re buying), I’ll give you the technical explanation if you want. Haha…for real though, it’s the best on the market. That’s just a fact.
Login Lockdown – Security! Install, activate and call it a day. It blocks brute force attacks, which are the most common way thieves and other criminals get into your site for fun time.
MaxBlogPress Ping Optimizer – Great solution for maximizing search visibility for the content you publish.
Revision Control – Allows finer control over the number of Revisions stored on a global & per-type/page basis. Geeky! But seriously…a lot of WP sites end up running way too slowly, and a massive database is a big part of the reason. This helps keeps stuff under control.
SEO Friendly Images – Particularly if you host a lot of images, this is just smart. It’s also friendly. For images. I’m pretty sure that’s where they got the name.
Recommended WordPress Hosting
Bluehost – I’ve been recommending these guys for almost 10 years now. One of the best start up web hosts out there. I’ll give it to you straight…if performance and uptime are CRUCIAL for you, don’t go with a hosting package with anything less than business-class VPS hosting. But Bluehost is perfect for anyone getting off the ground and cutting their teeth in the web dev arena.
RWP – I’m a partner with this company. Small business-optimized WordPress hosting. We work on a small scale and pick our clients carefully. But no one, literally, can even come close to the level of support offered here. If you’re a developer that requires full admin control over your hosting environment, this isn’t what you’re looking for. If you’re a business owner that wants your site to WORK, and you want to have a full-featured solution to ANYTHING you need for your website within arms reach, it’s the best solution on the market. I’ll take the pepsi challenge any day of the week 😉
Recommended Email Marketing Solution
Aweber – Ever since I moved to Aweber 6-7 years ago, I couldn’t imagine living without it. As soon as I got past the mental block of paying a few bucks to send email, my list started blowing up like it never had before, and my conversion rates took off as well. The right tools for the job make all the different in the world.
Ummm, how do I set all this crap up??
Hit me up. My pleasure to answer any questions you have. I can hook you up with our latest video tutorials also, showing you the whole process.
Over the years I’ve done a handful of this type of post. Every time so far I get a lot of email about stuff I’ve “missed”. No worries. Here’s the thing. I love you even if you have a difference of opinion 😉
Please do feel free to let me know your thoughts. This isn’t a end-all-be-all list. There’s no such thing. I’ve been building WP for about as long as it’s existed. I’m a marketing guy. I focus on bottom line results, performance, security and ease-of-use. That’s where I’m coming from. There’s no substitute for having a pro set you up. Sorry. There’s just not. That said, if you’re of the DIY persuasion, this list will get you up and running. And it’ll put the right gear in your hands so you can focus on marketing your biznas. Most importantly…by far…have fun!
Gary, I really appreciate you reading my blog! You and I originally met up in Chicago when you first put out Crush It, and we’ve touched base off and on since then via email and Twitter.
The reason I reached out to you via email is because the interview I want to put together is something I earnestly feel would benefit everyone…You, Grant and of course my readers and clients here also. It will give us all exposure to new people, and I guarantee the conversation to be frickin electric 🙂
Let me handle all the details, so all you guys need to do is show up! Excited to hear your thoughts!
If you’re reading this blog, you’re a small business owner. You probably already have a website. And you probably aren’t 100% happy with the results you’re getting with that website.
Hey…if you want to get some answers, you’re in the right place!
Whether you’re considering staying with your current website provider or are looking for a change, make sure to ask any web developer you’re working with these questions.
Ask them today.
You’re running your business today, right? Your prospects are visiting your website right now, as you read this. Make sure to address these concerns with your website vendor today, so you can ensure you’re not leaving money on the table.
- Can you provide a strategy for us getting on the first page of Google? If they claim to “guarantee” specific search engine rankings, run in the other direction. SEO isn’t turnkey, it requires a strategy. So if visibility in search is important to you, make sure they provide a strategy you can follow.
- What if I’m not happy with the results we’re getting? What type of support do you offer? Make sure you’re working with a provider that will work with you in an ongoing capacity to help you get results.
- If I want to update my website or change my design later, is that included? If not, what does it cost? You may get a website at a great price, but is it easy for you to edit and make updates? Or do you have to go through your developer for everything that needs to be done? Are you going to be charged again and again for ongoing maintenance? Make sure you get clear answers to these concerns, so you know what you’re signing up for.
- As technology and search engine algorithms change, what steps do you take to ensure my website stays up to speed? While this didn’t used to be such a big concern, today is hugely important. Tech and SEO are changing constantly. If you’re website isn’t modified to stay current, you can quickly fall behind. Make sure your vendor has a plan in place to ensure your website stays current.
- I want to make sure we’re getting x-amount of leads from our website every month. What can you do to help us reach our goals? Be clear about what results you’re wanting to see. Ask your vendor directly what they can do to ensure it happens. Businesses don’t grow on accident. If you want your website to generate more leads and business, it needs to be addressed directly. Most designers study design, surprisingly enough. But most have no marketing experience whatsoever.
- Do I have a dedicated IP address? This is more important than ever. Details here.
- Can you ensure a specific page speed ranking? This is another metric that has grown in importance by leaps and bounds. Details here.
- If I want to create lead capture pages to generate new business, do you provide tools for that? Lead capture pages are the #1 tool for lead gen. Creating them without the right tools is time consuming and expensive. Having tools to easily create your own lead capture pages not only saves you huge chunks of cash and a lot of hassle, it also makes your website much more profitable.
- If I have marketing-related questions or need help understanding how to execute an idea on our website, do you provide support for that? Does your website vendor provide marketing support or just tech support? Not the same thing, at all. If you’re a small business owner with a web presence, you’re going to have marketing-related questions. You can always hire a marketing coach, and you may already have one. Bottom line, make sure you’ve got a direct and easy way to get the answers you need.
- What background do you have related to sales and marketing? Your designer knows design, of course. But what marketing experience do they have? Do they understand your particular industry? Do they know how to sell stuff? If not, how could they possibly build you a website that converts?
The web is filled with beautiful websites that look amazing but produce no results. If you want a website that converts, you need a website vendor that knows marketing, not just design.
It’s also crucial to not confuse search engine optimization with marketing. You can get all the traffic in the world, but if your website isn’t converting, you’ll still get no bottom line result. If your website DOES convert, you can grow your business with even a very small amount of traffic.
Make sure to ask these questions of ANY website vendor you’re considering doing business with. This way you can ensure you’re getting a website that is capable of performing the way you expect.
Questions or need some assistance? I always love hearing from ya 🙂
Did you know you can get more leads from the exact same website by simply moving it to a different server?
Did you know that you can get more business from a website by changing NOTHING other than by redesigning some of the source code…something none of your visitors will EVER even see?
It’s not all about design.
If you want your website to generate leads and build your business, there are several crucial elements you need to address. If you want to grab a list of the 7 most important factors overall, you can get that here.
In this quick post, I want to share a few of the more obscure issues that very few business owners ever address. We literally never even look at this stuff, and it makes a HUGE difference. In fact, these issues are so important that if they’re not addressed properly, everything else you do will have much less impact.
This stuff isn’t difficult. It’s just a matter of most small business owners not knowing what to look for. Just like anything else in business, the stuff that really makes the most difference isn’t sexy. In fact, for most people it’s downright boring. But if you don’t do it, everything else suffers.
Check these three simple principles and see how your website measures up…
Dedicated IP address
Your domain name is called a URL, which stands for Uniform Resource Locator. You may not know this, but your website isn’t actually located at your domain name. It’s located at an IP address. You may have heard of IP addresses but aren’t sure what they are. This post is NOT a technical tutorial. Don’t worry. I’m not gonna bore you to tears with technical details 🙂
Suffice to say, your site is on a web server, and that server has an IP address. Most small business websites share an IP address with thousands of other websites.
You should absolutely care that you share an IP address with thousands of other websites.
Because if ANY of those other website owners have poorly coded sites, malware, are involved with spamming or any other activity that is frowned upon by Google, ISPs and others, then the IP address generating that activity can get dinged.
Hear me on this…you can get blacklisted, have your search rankings dramatically affected and more. All for activity that you have NOTHING to do with. All for activity you’re not even aware of. All for activity you have absolutely no way to correct.
Talk to your developer and make sure you’re on a dedicated IP.
Did you know Google grades your website on hundreds of thousands of metrics? No one knows them all, as they’re not all public knowledge. But one of the newer factors we’ve come across lately is design.
Your search visibility can be negatively affected by nothing other than the fact that your design hasn’t been updated in several years.
Why the heck does Google care about this? Because their only concern is providing a positive and relevant experience for their users. They want to direct their customers to websites that have the right information, of course. But they also want the website to work well and provide a positive experience for their customers.
In other words, with literally trillions of webpages to sift through, they have to prioritize. They’d rather send their visitors to websites that look great, work well and ALSO have the information they’re looking for. Make sense?
The good news is that modernizing your design is far easier and less expensive than it’s ever been before.
But don’t get me wrong. This is NOT just about Google. Let’s be honest about this, if you were the consumer, would YOU take your website seriously? We’re tech savvy and picky these days. If you’re considering doing business with someone, but their website is tacky and looks like it was built by an intern in 1996, would you take them seriously?
I’ve come across so many companies that are doing GREAT work for their clients. They operate successful, profitable businesses. They know how crucial it is to put their best foot forward, to present themselves professionally. They put these ideals to work in nearly all aspects of their business.
And then they roll into the marketplace with a $500 website that looks like it was built by a high school student. And in MANY cases, it actually WAS built by a high school student.
It’s all about priorities, my dear 🙂
Another element that dramatically affects user experience is page speed. This is yet another metric that Google and other search engines look at seriously. But your prospects look at it even more closely.
Let’s be real…if you’re on a website, and the pages are taking 20 seconds to load, how long are you going to stick around? In most cases, people wait about 2 seconds. Anything past that and your visitors are going to notice.
Even if you change nothing else on your website, these three factors all work together to create a solid foundation. Yes of course, content matters. Design matters. There are however, some elements that most people never even look at, that make a big difference.
Checking into these will only take you a few minutes. Correcting them is not difficult either, and it can make a huge difference in the results you get.
Questions or need help? Hit me up. I love, love, love hearing from you all!
I met CC Underwood recently on Facebook. She’s a Realtor in Jacksonville, FL. Today she shared something she was involved with that I just had to share with you as a great example of how to run a business.
CC is an affiliate for a program called Homes for Heroes. The organization gives money back to military families, firefighters, police officers and other local heroes. Anytime they purchase a home, they get money back at closing, contributed by the professionals involved in the transaction. Watch a short video of CC explaining the program in an interview.
I’ve had so many discussions with clients who are searching for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. The best answer is as simple as this!
People work with people they like, bottom line. Who wouldn’t love and appreciate an organization like this? It’s a fantastic way to contribute, and it’s also a great way to grow.
Are you contributing substantially to your community? The more value you give away, the more valuable you become. This is how you create wealth my friends.
I hope you’re havin a blast this week. Questions? Want me to cover something on the blog? I love hearing from you! Peace.