WordPress has an infinite number of plugins that you can activate to improve your website. But which one do you choose for your website? In this episode, I’m going to talk about the plugins that I love working with. So, please let me introduce you to my 5 favourite plugins:

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. WPML
  3. WooCommerce
  4. WP Rocket
  5. Gravity Forms

In the previous episode of this blog series, I told you about the WordPress theme that I love to work with. It’s called Divi, an all-in-one page builder and WordPress theme that enables you to create and design a website at the same time. 

Read more about Divi.

Before I begin, what is a plugin? Plugins are ready to use code that has been written by experienced software developers. You can use these as an extension of the WordPress software to add functions to the website. I’m guessing you’ve already defined your goal for the website before you started working on it. If so, you’ll also know which functions aren’t provided by the software and therefore, which plugins you’ll need after installing the theme you’ve chosen. Now, I’m very curious if you’ve included any of my favourites. So, let’s take a look at the first one straight away.

1. Yoast SEO

In episode 4 of my previous blog series, I explained what SEO is and how you can apply it. Do you remember what it is? SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization’. It involves implementing certain changes to optimize the website for search engines, making it easier for it to be found by people looking for what you have to offer. The first time that you do this can be demanding and you have to keep working on it. Although the Yoast SEO plugin won’t take the work off your hands, it will make it a lot easier for you to, among other things, use the right keywords, think up your own meta title and make a sitemap for the search engines.

Yoast SEO gives advice on the keywords you use

What exactly does this plugin do? To me it feels as if there’s a SEO expert sitting next to me giving advice on the keywords I use in the website content, without me having to pay (much) for their – her/his services. That’s because, with the free plugin you can easily optimize the website and if you want that little bit extra, you only pay € 89 excluding sales tax annually for an extensive premium version. To return to my question, Yoast scans the content on your website for the keywords that you want to be found with. Subsequently, it indicates if these keywords are being used in the right proportions and in the right places. At the same time, it looks for variants of the keywords that you suggest. If certain variants are used more often than your keyword, the plugin suggests using the variants. 

These are the basics. Besides this, Yoast takes care of structured data on the web pages, so that search engines understand what the pages are about. In addition, with the ‘snippet editor’ you can preview your pages and posts to see how these are presented to potential visitors in the search results, and you can edit the description. Another handy option is the information you get about the texts. And in the background, this virtual SEO expert makes sure it is easy for search engines to scan the website. Do you want to try Yoast SEO? You’ll find more information and can download the WordPress plugin on the website.

2. WPML

Say your website is meant to reach people who speak a different language. For example, because you’re extending your company’s target area from your home country to Latin America. Or because you’re creating a website for a client who sells natural personal care products to people all over Europe. In that case, you’ll definitely need a multilingual website or webshop. WPML enables you to create such a website and keep its content up to date. At present, it’s available in 40 languages and you can add language variants, such as Canadian French.

WPML simplifies the management of a multilingual website

How does it work? To put it simply, a kind of parallel website is created in the other language that you use on the website. For instance, if your domain name has a .pt extension (Portugal) and you also want an English version of this, you can create exactly the same website in English. What I find very useful, is that WPML keeps an eye on things for me, which simplifies the management of a multilingual website. Each time you add a new page or edit the content in one language, you receive a dashboard notification asking you if you want to translate this page or this content in the other language version(s). And if you choose a comprehensive version of WPML, you can outsource translations to translators of their translation service or the translators who you work with. Do you want a multilingual website? Visit the WPML website.

3. WooCommerce

In my last example, I mentioned a webshop that served the whole of Europe. With WordPress it’s relatively easy to create an extensive webshop. For this you can use WooCommerce’s e-commerce plugin. Just like with a website, it would be good to get a number of things clear first. I’m talking about the website structure, the design (especially of the Home page) and the menus, but also the payment options you want to use and how you are going to ship the products.

That’s a lot to think about, but the plugin will help you. Just like Divi, which I mentioned in the previous episode, WooCommerce is very user-friendly and easy to grasp. If you do encounter difficulties, there’s plenty of information on the website that will help you out and you can request support in the community. And you can always ask me, of course.

WooCommerce helps you to create a fully automated webshop

Another thing I love about this plugin, is that it enables you to connect the webshop using so-called APIs to the software of parcel delivery services, payment providers and accountancy software. And even without these APIs, you will get there using the plugin’s own built-in payment methods. In addition, much is automated, for instance the calculation of the total price, taxes and shipping costs. This saves a lot of time and effort that you can put into, for example, marketing your products. And to make things a lot easier, you can print parcel labels at home and manage your webshop wherever you want with a mobile app on your phone. Are you ready to start selling online? You can find the WordPress plugin on the WooCommerce website.

4. WP Rocket

Essential for attracting visitors to a website and informing them, is the time it takes to load. Why? It’s simple, really. Research shows that 40% of website visitors leave the website if it takes more than 3 seconds for the website to load. If this is the case with your website, it means that 40% of your visitors will never find out how fine your services or products are. Also, fast loading websites are more likely to be ranked more highly by search engines and to be presented in the first search results.

WP Rocket ensures optimal loading times

WP Rocket increases the loading time of the website, so that visitors don’t have to wait and are more inclined to stay and take in the information on the website. One of this plugin’s functions is caching websites. A cache is a kind of temporary store for data that must be transferred quickly to enable certain website functions to work. This is vital to the operation of the website, but the drawback of a cache is that it overloads rapidly. When this happens, the website will take longer to load. WP Rocket ensures regular caching, which in turn ensures optimal loading times.

Another of WP Rocket’s functions is that it can compress and also merge and compress CSS and JavaScript. This also benefits the website loading time. Make sure you check what works best for your website though. For instance, you can choose not to merge CSS, because otherwise it will be loaded for each web page instead of just the specific page it was meant for. Do you want visitors to stay on your website long enough to contact you about what you have to offer? Go and have a look on the WP Rocket website.

5. Gravity Forms

One of the subjects I discussed in the previous episode about Divi, was the use of website forms. Forms such as contact forms and subscription forms for newsletters and blogs. You can easily create simple standard forms like these with a WordPress theme like Divi, but if you want to create forms that are more complex, you will need a plugin. I use the one by Gravity Forms.

This plugin has a number of functions that come in handy. Here are some examples. Say you want to divide the respondents of a survey into two groups from the beginning. One group of respondents who use a lot of make-up and another group of respondents who use very little make-up. By asking questions based on conditional logic, you can formulate other specific questions per group in Gravity Forms. Another of its functions is adding parameter types. Say customers can choose from three plans. In each plan they enter certain information and subsequently click a call-to-action button, for example ‘Yes, I want this!’. By adding a parameter to the button, you can have the customers automatically directed to a comprehensive quote application form. And the plugin also enables that the information that has already been provided is added to the form, making the process a lot easier and more pleasant for the customers.

With Gravity Forms you can make tailor-made forms

What’s more, advanced users can even add some JavaScript to tailor the form to their requirements. For instance for a multiple choice question: ‘What type of restaurant do you prefer?’ with multiple answers to choose from. The three answer choices are: 1. French, 2. Italian, 3. None of the above. Using JavaScript you can prevent choices 1 and 2 from being chosen in addition to choice 3.

Another thing I like about Gravity Forms, is that it’s very user-friendly. You choose the fields you need, configure the options you need, place the form on the website and the plugin takes care of the rest. In addition, you can integrate it with web applications, such as HubSpot, in order to manage marketing, sales and customer service. And you can also create the forms in the same style as the theme and the other forms you use, for example with CSS. So, if you want an easy way of creating tailor-made forms, I advise you to have a look around on the Gravity Forms website.

Here is a summary for you

Well, you’ve met my 5 favourite plugins. Here is a summary for you to help you decide whether you want to use these yourself.

  • Yoast SEO: a virtual SEO expert who supports you with your choice of keywords
  • WPML: the plugin for creating and managing multilingual websites
  • WooCommerce: the webshop plugin that sees to everything
  • WP Rocket: a plugin that optimizes the loading time of your website
  • Gravity Forms: the plugin for the creation of complex website forms