Sending Emails from WordPress Sites

Sending Emails from WordPress Sites

Sending Emails from WordPress Sites

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Why doesn’t WordPress send emails without any configuration?

  • The easy answer is, it does… sometimes.
  • Some hosts and website work without any editing to the WordPress install or even the plugins to send emails from forms. It’ uses the PHP Mail function.
  • But some hosts don’t have that running or it is very ineffecting in sending email, so a plugin needs to be installed to send those emails

What is SMTP?

  • The default method of sending any emails is SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol).
  • It’s a way to send email from your website to your visitors through your email provider.
    • If you don’t have a dedicated domain email provider, you an also use Gmail, Outlook and other free email providers with a little configuration.
  • The basic information to send email through SMTP is
    • The server address : will be something like smtp.gmail.com

    • The username. Often it will be the full email address to send FROM : ie – something@gmail.com

    • The password for the account

    • The protocol to use and it’s accompanying port

      • 25 – basic, unencrypted SMTP port. This sends email from the site/app directly to the email server with no protection. It’s often restricted by many email servers and ISPs.
      • 465 : Another port that was used up until recently, but it’s not recommended any longer. It uses SSL ports but is actually now used for other types of internet traffic, and can be blocked or filtered by many ISPs and email providers.
      • 587 : The recommended port to send SMTP traffic. It uses TLS encryption which will ensure the email is submitted security.

      What plugins can be used to send emails from WordPress

      • Easy WP SMTP Plugin – my default SMTP plugin. Easy to confiure, it’s free, and comes with many preconfigured hosts like Gmail, Yahoo! and Outlook. Sends a test email to any email you wish to make sure everything work.
      • Mail SMTP Gateway Plugin – Another great SMTP plugin. This one has many options and can be tough for inexpreienced users to configure the eadvanced options.
      • WP Email SMTP Plugin – Another free plugins that has all the usual options. Some of the most popular included settings are from email, from name, mailer, return path, host, port, authentication, encryption, username and password.

What are your experiences or questions about sending emails from your website? Leave them below, or send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

Sending Emails from WordPress Sites

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Protecting Your WordPress Sites With Good Passwords

Protecting Your WordPress Sites With Good Passwords

WordPress Admin Security

The most obvious security issue with WordPress is your administrator account logon information. By locking that down you can protect your website content and install information. 

But there are other security measures you should implement if you really want your site to be secure. We’ll talk about those on this episode 113 of the BeBizzy Break Podcast.

Protecting Your WordPress Sites With Good Passwords

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Your WordPress Admin Account

There are several ways for a hacker to gain control of your website or server. I’m going to start with the most obvious, then give you some tips on protecting the rest of your site and social engineering opportunities

  • Admin Accounts

    • Admin Passwords – choose a good password. I assigned a tough, 16-characters admin password today which was promptly changed by the user to a weak password. The client didn’t want increased security on allowing weak passwords, so now an admin has an easy password, which would allow total access to the site and the data.
    • Delete unused accounts – I recently killed a few accounts on a site that haven’t technically been active in over five years. However, if that person had really wanted to cause an issue, it would have taken no time to change that password, log in to the site and start causing all kinds of damage. And technically, it wouldn’t have to be the person who “owned” that account, it could be hacked by virtually anyone, especially if they had email access (see below)

Other Website Security Concerns

So once you have a handle on the admin accounts in WordPress, now it’s time to take a quick audit of the other weak links

  • Your email password – This is 100% the most important password you will even use. Almost every password recovery, confirmation, and communication from other systems come through your email. If someone gets your email password, they can get almost anything else including your bank, your credit cards, your mobile phone records, Office accounts, business files… everything.

    Make your email password as secure as humanly possible, set up two-factor authentication (2FA) where possible, and guard this password with your life.

  • Password Managers – Now that I’ve made it clear your email is THE weakest link, a good password manager like LastPass is essential is managing strong, unique passwords for all of your pages. And most modern browsers allow easy use to auto-fill or provide easy copy/paste of passwords into your web apps and pages.
  • Server login – Having access to a WordPress site is good, but getting direct access to a server WHM or Cpanel is even better. You could point the site at a different location, change up some of the settings, or even just delete everything. Lock that down with a good password.
  • Registrar – Hijacking domain name isn’t new, but it is relatively easy with access to the registrar. From here DNS records can be changed, contact emails can be changed, and domains can even be cancelled/deleted. Turn on 2FA and set a good password.
  • Other technical sources for the site – Make sure logins to your CDN, WooCommerce account, plugin sources and more are all protected with great passwords and 2FA.

Passwords will usually scrub off the casual hacker, but to ensure your site’s security to those with a little more skill you may have to take some additional measures. Set good passwords, utilize 2FA when possible, and change the passwords on a regular basis. 

Update on WordPress 5.4 which was released on March 31, 2020. Some issues emerging on the editor going full screen, and favicons disappearing or affecting load time. So at this time I would advise you not to update until an incremental update is released to address some of these concerns.

Have horror stories or tips on securing your WordPress or other website? Send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

Protecting Your WordPress Sites With Good Passwords

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Adding Notifications to Your WordPress Site

Adding Notifications to Your WordPress Site

Adding Notifications 

Sometimes you need to get specific information out to your customers like operation times, newsletter signups, new product lines, or even business sale or closing messages.

There are many ways to do this, and also many things to consider when you’ve decided to move forward. On today’s Episode 111 of the BeBizzy Break Podcast we talk about Adding Notifications to your WordPress Website.

Adding Notifications to Your WordPress Site

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

What To Consider Before Adding A Notification

On the surface, adding a notification to a website sounds simple. I need to tell people something, add a popup…

But given there’s so many ways to do this, and so many options, it’s important to consider a few things before you move forward.

  • How often should I present the message – most of these options have ways to limiting how often a user sees the message. The most popular are once per user session, once per day, once per week, or simply… once. How often would be managed by what the message is, the importance of the message, and the duration.
  • Should I open on all pages, or limit viewing – Does your message need to be seen by every visitor to the page, or it important only to blog viewers, or contact us visitors?
  • How intrusive should it be – Will a standard popup get the job done, or can you just have a footer notification. Or is it so important that it needs to be full-page?
  • Require User Interaction – Does the visitor need to interact with it with a Call-To-Action (CTA), or will a simple accept or close button work?
  • How long should you leave it up – In the case of the COVID outbreak, the office closures will be mostly dictated by the government, but if it’s seasonal hours, or specific instructions, make sure you have someone who knows to remove it.

Ways to Display Notifications

There are many ways to display notifications to website visitors. The most popular include : 

  • Notification Bars – These are usually stuck to the footer of a website and will stay there until acknowledged with a click to close. Uses include notification of privacy policy, a change in store/office hours, and moderately important messages. One of the more popular plugins is WPFront Notification Bar
  • Popups – You’ve seen popups for years. They are on almost every website you visit trying to get you to subscribe to newsletter, acknowledge privacy policies, and in the case of COVID-19 showing hours or other information. Use this method carefully when you determine how often it needs to be displayed, how large it is displayed, and what information is requested. There are hundreds of popup builder plugins available, find the one that fits your needs.
  • Edit Your WordPress page – If you want something a bit more permanent or embedded in your website you can just add it on your home age in a row or module. This takes a bit more work, but can be a little bit less intrusive to visitors but still be seen. 

Adding a notification to your website can be as easy as just saying you want one and picking a way to do it. But, by putting a little thought into it before you implement you can find a better, more effective way of projecting your message. 

What are your favorite ways of displaying notifications to website visitors? Send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

Adding Notifications to Your WordPress Site

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Getting Inspiration For Your Website Redesign

Getting Inspiration For Your Website Redesign

Where Do You Start On A Redesign

One of the critical parts of website research is what you do, and maybe more importantly, what you do NOT like on how a website looks and works. Often clients refer to competitors when they point out these likes and dislikes, which is OK, but can force these clients into a corner.

But I would encourage you to look outside your competitors, and even your business classification for inspiration. Find a look that is user friendly, modern and gets your business and culture across to your clients.

Getting Inspiration For Your Website Redesign

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Sites To Inspire

Apart from just surfing the web looking for inspiration there are places dedicated to inspire design. Here we’re going to list five sites that can provide some layouts, functions and tones for your potential redesign.

Again, it’s important to look past the content and to see the design, the layout and even some of the plugins that can be implemented into your site when it’s time to discuss a redesign or initial launch. This can save DOZENS of hours of redesigning and tweaking layouts in the long run. Don’t forget to look at and discuss fonts, heading and text sizes, colors, image sizes, social media feeds, calendars and anything else you think you need.

#WPWednesday – WordPress 5.4 

WordPress 5.4 scheduled for launch 3/31/2020 with several “block editor” improvements. Not sure an update during these turbulent times is a good idea, but the updates include :  

  • Several “block editor” improvements
  • Social Icons block – allows easy insertion of social media profiles (FB, TW, IG)
  • Buttons block – allow adding more than one button per line
  • Better background color options for blocks
  • Drag & drop an image to the Featured Image section. Great for social sharing and blog images.
  • Select text in a block and change its color instead of changing the entire block
  • Fixed mobile toolbar on mobile

As always, run backups and take other precautions before you run the update. Good luck!

What are your favorite ways to be inspired on a website redesign? Leave them below, or send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

Getting Inspiration For Your Website Redesign

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Speeding Up Your WordPress Site With WP-Rocket

Speeding Up Your WordPress Site With WP-Rocket

What is WP Rocket?

WP Rocket is a caching and optimization plugin that takes the code, content, images, videos and other pieces of your website and finds a faster way to present them to your website visitors. That can be storing them on their computers or on a CDN (content data network). It can be combining or moving CSS and javascript files to minimize the time spend processing the code. It can be reducing the number of calls made off the server to Google or other sites.

WP Rocket does all of this, with about ten minutes of setup and a few bucks. Speaking of a few bucks… if you want to purchase WP Rocket, go to bebizzy.com/rocket and get started today!

WP Rocket

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

How Can WP Rocket Speed Up My Website?

There’s only so much you can do technically to increase your website speed. Load times are based on server response times, bandwidth, hard drive speeds… and then it’s down to the software. 

CDNs and optimized code definitely help but eventually you’re down to leaning on more involved 

Features

  • Basic setup was done in about 10 minutes.  Advanced setup, configuration and testing can take additional time, but all options are pretty much toggled on/off.
  • Page caching
    Really decreases page load time by serving up indexed and cached items.
  • Preloading
    Because the crawler simulates a visit to preload the cache, the indexing of your website by search engines is instantly improved.
  • Sitemap loading
  • GZIP Compression
    WP Rocket compresses HTML, CSS, javascript and other code to optimize it by decreasing the size.
  • Browser Caching
    Modern browsers can look for the same photo, video, HTML code and other pieces of a website faster locally that it can sending requests to a website. WP Rocket helps optimize that.
  • Database optimization
    WP Rocket helps clean up databases and make them run more efficiently.
  • Google fonts
    Decreases the requests for unused fonts by only grabbing what is needed to properly display on the site.
  • Remove query strings from Static Resources
    Improves load time and testing scores by removing query strings from CSS and JS files.
  • Lazyload images and videos
    Images and other content doesn’t load until it becomes evident the visitor wants or needs them.
  • Defer Javascript
    Load JS files at the bottom of the page unless necessary elsewhere. This speeds up the page by not loading code before visible items.
  • CDN
    I have mine connected to my Stackpath CDNs, but Cloudflare and other URLS are easily inserted in the settings.
  • Works with eCommerce

Pricing 

All pricing for WP Rocket is on an annual basis to keep updates and support access. You could allow the plugin to lapse, but as WordPress, PHP versions, your themes, your other plugins and more advance the plugin may not work as intended and also become a security issue.

  • $49 for one site
  • $99 for three sites (annual)
  • $249 for unlimited websites

Some other features

  • Works for multi-lingual sites
  • Works in multisite environments
  • You can turn on and off features to connected users with a simple toggle button
  • All features of the plugin can work on mobile without additional programming or configuration.

Support is email support. Only sent one ticket but got a response in about two hours, which is decent.

If you’re looking to speed up your WordPress site, I can’t recommend WP Rocket enough! Head over to https://bebizzy.com/rocket and get signed up.

Do you use WP Rocket or another caching pluging? Leave me comments @BeBizzy on Twitter!

WP Rocket

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

My Favorite Apps and Plugins – Episode #100!

My Favorite Apps and Plugins – Episode #100!

We made it! Episide 100!

I’ve always hoped we would reach this milestone, but it seemed so far away. But here we are, the 100th episode of the BeBizzy Break Podcast!

On today’s podcast we will discuss the apps and plugins I use on a daily basis for general business, WordPress and podcasting. 

BeBizzy's Favorite Apps and Plugins

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Links to previous podcast posts on my favorite apps and plugins.

Favorite Applications/WP programs I use on a daily or weekly basis. You, or someone you work with or know, may find some of these very helpful. 

Keep in mind a few of these may be affiliate links… it won’t cost you any more, but I will make a few dollars off the referral, so thank you!

General Apps

WordPress

Podcasting Gear

We’re always looking for new and different plugins and applications to test and review. Have one? Leave them below, or send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

BeBizzy's Favorite Apps and Plugins

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Elegant Theme’s DIVI WordPress Theme – with Keegan Lanier

Elegant Theme’s DIVI WordPress Theme – with Keegan Lanier

Why is the Divi WordPress Theme so good?

Divi WordPress ThemeThere are thousands and thousands of WordPress themes available to you as a company or developer. But Elegant Themes has done a great job developing a very versatile theme called Divi which allows dynamic content creation and manipulation of images and other content.

Keegan Lanier of Keegan Lanier Media joins me to discuss WordPress, the history of Divi, and what’s on the horizon for our favorite way to build a website. 

Interested in trying Divi? Head over to the Elegant Themes site

Discussing Divi with Keegan Lanier

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

What is Divi?


Divi WordPress Theme

WordPress themes are an easy way to change the look and function of a website. Laying new themes and layouts over the top of existing content can drastically improve how a site looks and feels, reacts to mobile devices and works on certain servers.

The Divi theme has been available for about five years now, and we are right on the verge of version 4.0 being released on October 17th. Over the last few years it has made great strides in how site content is created, edited and displayed with it’s classic back end builder and now the visual builder, which essentially lets the user drag and drop content where it needs to be seen.

The Visual Builder

At the core of Divi 3.0 is the visual builder. It’s a way to build and edit the website “live,” as you see it in the browser. Images can be resized, text can be edited/added, column sizes can be increased and decreased with changes in padding. Just about anything you would like to do to a website can be done visually.

What’s Coming In 4.0?

  • Better header/footer creation
  • Woocommerce and other major plugin layouts and implementation across the platform
  • Theme Builder, which in addition to the Woocommerce info above, can be used across the site to quickly change how multiple pages look and work, making redesigns much easier and faster.
  • Global defaults to change how a button and other modules look on many, or even EVERY page.
  • Dynamic content. Have great content and data in a database or another site? Put it in your Divi site with just a few clicks. This has been available for nearly a year, but 4.0 will make it extremely useful. 

Both Keegan and I, along with thousands of other Divi fans, are patiently awaiting the new Divi launch. Keep in touch by listening to the BeBizzy Break Podcast, and also the Divi Addicts podcast hosted by Keegan. I’m sure we will post the good, and probably a little bad, when it launches and as it progresses. 

Have any questions or suggestions on using the Divi WordPress theme? Leave them below, or send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

Discussing Divi with Keegan Lanier

by BeBizzy Consulting | BeBizzy Break Podcast

Comments or No Comments on WordPress?

Comments or No Comments on WordPress?

ShouId I allow comments on my WordPress website?

It’s an ageless question. Leave comments turned on in every page of my website, only leave them on the blog posts, or turn them off everywhere?

There are pluses and minuses to all varieties of answers, but on today’s episode of the BeBizzy Break Podcast we talk about should you leave them on, how you can protect yourself if you do, and how to remove them if you don’t.

Subscribe to the BeBizzy Break Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio

Some Things To Consider About Comments

In short, WP comments is feedback, positive or negative, left by visitors to your website. Usually they are at the bottom of the page and while they can many time require some data provided by the commentor, it doesn’t always provide a way to communicate with the person making the comments outside the page.

On the plus side, comments are a great way for your visitors, customers and readers to leave a message about the content. That usually involves something positive or negative, a response back to a current comment, or a general comment about the site or author. These comments can serve as a “social proof” to other visitors that you have an engaged community and might prompt a newsletter signup, frequent visits, or even a sale.

However, the negative side of comments are distracting at best, and damaging at worst. Un-monitored  commenters can be aggressive, even threatening, at times. Comments can be very negative about the content, the author or the company hosting the page. SPAM commenters can come in and offer their services or products in the comment thread to supplement or replace the products offered on the page. Images and language can be used in the comments that could potentially be abusive, even illegal, if not monitored or combated.

So, you can see while comments can be a valuable way to increase reader engagement, sometimes they really should be turned off for the protection of the website owner, and the consumers of the content.

How Can I Protect My Comment Stream?

There are several things you can do to protect your website from malicious comments. 

  • Require an account with verifiable email addresses before commenting : This will sort out the low hanging fruit of people who do not want to be found after making negative comments. These folks don’t have “burner” email accounts and fake names, so supplying actual names and contact info can sometimes be enough deterrent.
  • Put a comment filter in place like Akismet : Akismet will look for obvious signs of spamming and put these comments in a held state waiting for approval. Then the admin (or you) can go in and either approve or reject. If rejected, you will have the option to block all from this user/IP.
    Version:4.2.1
    Requires:5.0 or higher
    Compatible up to:5.8.1
    Released:20 October 2005
    Downloads:221596801
    Last Updated:01 October 2021
    Ratings:
    4.7
    (4.7 star out of 5)
  • Use a comment system like Disqus : Moving away from the standard WordPress commenting system and use a system like Disqus will allow users to use the same information across several websites. So just logging into the Disqus system and making comments speeds up the process.

    Version:3.0.22
    Requires:4.4 or higher
    Compatible up to:5.6.5
    Released:28 August 2008
    Downloads:3996577
    Last Updated:26 May 2021
    Ratings:
    2.7
    (2.7 star out of 5)

  • Employ monitors or admins : No one has time to monitor website comments if the site is large and doing well. For smaller, less visited sites you can see every comment, respond and remove as necessary. But if the site grows, you will have to employ or recruit some people to help out. Often these are frequent commenters who volunteer or can be trusted, but occasionally you will have to pay for professional help. 

How Can I Turn Comments Off?

I’m a fan of turning comments off. I simply don’t have the time, or the desire, to look through every post, comment, article and page to look for valuable or damaging content. So I turn them off with a plugin for my website, and my client’s websites.

  • WordPress settings has a toggle to turn off “future” comments : This works great if you’re building a new site and don’t have any comments. But if you do, the old comments will remain
  • Disable Comments Plugin : simply my go-to comment killer plugin. This be installed and activated, then configured to turn off all, none, or some of the comments on the site. Want comments only on blog posts, not pages? Easy. Want to kill all of them? Even easier.
    Version:2.2.2
    Requires:5.0 or higher
    Compatible up to:5.8.1
    Released:27 May 2011
    Downloads:13106868
    Last Updated:05 October 2021
    Ratings:
    4.7
    (4.7 star out of 5)
  • Disable Comments and Delete Comments Plugin : A fairly new plugin that does the same thing more or less as the earlier disable comments plugin. Quite simply, it just deletes and disables all comments.
    Version:
    Requires: or higher
    Compatible up to:
    Released:01 January 1970
    Downloads:
    Last Updated:01 January 1970
    Ratings:
    0
    (0 star out of 5)

Comments can be a great way to measure engagement, have visitors promote or provide critical analysis of your content, and even allow pingbacks and other shares of the content. But they can also be a drain on resources, especially time, and even be distracting or abusive to your other readers. Use them with caution, put failsafes in place, and if it gets unmanageable, turn them off before they become damaging to your and your website. 

Have any questions or suggestions on website comments? Leave them below, or send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

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How To Choose and Use WordPress Plugins

How To Choose and Use WordPress Plugins

WordPress Plugins

One of the biggest benefits of using WordPress to build and manage your website is plugins. These small pieces of code can greatly increase the functions and benefits of your WordPress site, but it’s not without some risk. 

John Overall of WP Plugins from A-Z joins me on the BeBizzy Break Podcast Episode #85 to discuss WordPress plugins and a few other subjects. 

Subscribe to the BeBizzy Break Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio

Some Basic Info on WordPress Plugins

Plugins are really just compiled code that can easily be installed and used on your website. Most are very small and only get loaded when they are used on a page. However, some, like Woocommerce and some contact form plugins are very large and often load on all pages whether they get used or not, so be careful on how many you install and run.

Currently there are nearly 55,000 plugins available in the WordPress repository in just about any function you can imagine.

The repository contains links and information to free plugins, with paid plugins available directly from the developer, CodeCanyon, and a variety of other places. 

How to Select a Plugin

Searching for a plugin can yield hundreds of potential suitors for the job. Some detective work and maybe even some “live” testing may be required to find the right plugin. 

John has set up some “sandbox” websites that only serve as test beds for plugins and themes. This is a great suggestion, or you can use a development area for the actual site if you have that available to you. 

It’s not recommended that you test a plugin on a live site unless absolutely necessary. It can cause the site to not display correctly, or be totally down. 

And also be advised there are three different types of plugins in regards to cost, free, premium, and freemium. Free is free. No cost, just download and use. Premium will cost you up front before you install. Large, often popular plugins like Gravity Forms are included in this model. The third is “freemium” where you will be given the plugin for free for a short time, then you have to pay to use it after the trial period. 

Potential Issues Installing Plugins on Your Site

Before we go too far, this is a great time for me to snap in my weekly plug for backups. Back up your site BEFORE you install any plugins or themes just in case.

Like anything you install on a website, plugin code can cause some undesired results on the website. Collisions with other code can affect CSS, some themes, the working of other plugins, and even the dreaded “white screen of death” on your WordPress site. 

Also, free can come with some security issues. While the WordPress repository does a great job of monitoring and screening plugins before they get into the wild, sometimes malware finds a way into a plugin. This also can occur on paid plugins, but it’s less of a chance. 

Really what is comes down to is a couple of things.

  • When was the plugin last updated.
  • What versions of PHP or WordPress has it been tested with.
  • Read the reviews to see if the plugin was well-received by other users.
  • John suggested typing the plugin name into Google followed by the word “sucks”.

Keep in mind, WordPress is a free CRM. Out of the box it is very secure, but as you add themes, private code, or plugins you can open it up to potentially being exploited.

When asked if there is a number of plugins that is too many, John responded with “No.” It comes down to if all of the plugins can run well with each other, causes the page to load slowly, and can harm the user experience.

Go-To Plugins That We Use on Every Site

I use several plugins on nearly every website I develop. John also has a list of about ten or so plugins that go on his sites.  

  • Wordfence : security plugin that has a free or premium service. Even the free version does a great job of locking down the site
  • UpdraftPlus : A GREAT backup system that allows you to back up to the WordPress install, a Dropbox folder, an FTP location, and several other options. 
  • Gravity Forms : Versatile form builder
  • A CDN plugin – I use a CDN to make the website load faster for the visitor.
  • MainWP : I manage dozens of websites, so MainWP is very useful to track updates to all of the plugins.
  • WPMU Smush Pro : great image optimization plugin

Some Final Thoughts on WordPress Plugins

  • Don’t be afraid to use them.
  • The will save tons of time.
  • Don’t be stuck on the free version.
  • Don’t get married to a plugin. Sometimes you have to move to a new, better plugin.
  • Don’t be afraid of the research to find and implement the right plugin.
  • Listen to shows like the BeBizzy Break Podcast and WP Plugins from A-Z to learn about good, and bad, plugins.

WP Plugins from A-Z and Other John Overall Projects

If you are managing a WordPress website for you or for clients I would encourage you to add John Overall’s WP Plugins from A-Z to your rotation. He reviews five or so plugins on every episode and gives some real-world ratings on whether that plugin will be useful. 

At JohnOverall.com he also serves his development, hosting and recovery clients.

Have any questions or suggestions on WordPress plugins? Leave them below, or send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

Subscribe to the BeBizzy Break Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio

How and Why To Use WordPress Plugins

How and Why To Use WordPress Plugins

What Are WordPress Plugins?

Plugins are a powerful way to add functionality and uniqueness to your website. They range from Free, to free with premium (Freemium), or a paid model.

Most plugins are created by solo plugin developers, but a few are created by large theme and plugin houses. Because of this, expect a wide variety of support models

Some common front-end uses for plugins include calendars, contact forms, social media displays, content display like videos, image galleries and sound, sliders, and much more

But did you know there were quite a few administrative plugins for things like user management, security, SSL migration, analytics, database management, caching and a ton more.

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What are the benefits?

  • Plugins are easy to install – Search the WordPress plugin repository, or just click “Add New” in the plugins menu, install, activate and configure. The entire process can take as little as two minutes.
  • Big cost savings on custom development or programming – With just a few clicks something that can take days, or even weeks to develop can be added to a site.
  • Plugins are powerful – CDN plugins can add speed to a website. Contact forms can add lead generation to a site. Calendars can increase engagement and make it easy to distribute events. Social media plugins can bring in posts from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms, and can make it easy to share on these networks. All of this functionality would take a much greater amount of time to develop by hand instead of using WordPress plugins.
  • WordPress security – WordPress by itself is fairly secure. If you use a good password, have it installed on a decent host with a good username/password there, and take a few other precautions your site will be protected. However, if you really want to lock down admin access, make secure & frequent backups, or really shore up your security, plugins are a great way to do so.
    • Good backups and great passwords are still the best thing you can do, in my opinion.

But what are the possible issues with WordPress plugins?

  • Malware – There are some plugins that have been developed by some programmers with less-than-positive intentions. Backdooors and even malware programmed right into the software do happen.
  • Must be maintained – As you add plugins to the website it’s important to know maintenance becomes more important. Keeping the plugins, the theme and the WordPress core is valuable to keeping the site secure and running as it should. However, sometimes and update to one plugins and conflict with others, so running backups is very important.
  • Can be exploited – If a plugin is “abandoned,” meaning no longer updated, or even if a plugin is poorly programmed it can open a hole to bad actors. Keep you plugins updated to make sure you are as protected as possible and if a plugin has been abandoned for a significant amount of time, try to find a similar solution, or even  try to find a developer to fix or edit the current plugin.
  • Unused or Deactivated Plugins are Still Vulnerable – Just because you’re not using a plugin, or even if you deactivated it, the code is still vulnerable and could be exploited. Once you stop using a plugin, deactivate it in your Plugin directory, then delete it from the server to avoid potential issues.

Tips on selecting good plugins

  • Research the best plugin options – Google has tons of articles on the “Best WordPress Plugins for …” often with the most current year attached. You don’t want a list from 2012, as things have changed quite a bit in the last six or seven years. See what everyone else is using and what the pros and cons are of using each plugin.
  • Review WordPress Plugin repository Information – Each plugin has a page in the repository.  They will have a 1-5 star rating, when it was last updates, how many times it’s been installed, what version of WordPress it’s been test on, reviews, how to install, and links to support. If any of this information causes concern proceed with caution or find a different solution.
  • Be Prepared to Retreat – Sometimes installing a new plugin causes unforeseen issues with your theme or other installed plugins on the website, so be prepared to deactivate the plugins, or in the event of a catastrophic issue, restore a backup. It’s recommended to install in test environments if possible, or on the live site when the site it’s being used at its peak.
  • Try several plugins – Since most plugins are free, it’s ok to try several until you find one that meets your needs. Just remember to deactivate and delete the ones you aren’t using to keep the site safe.

Plugins are a great way to make WordPress a powerful, secure environment. With just a little bit of care, and some selective processes in finding the best plugin you can make your WordPress as good as it can possibly be.

Have any questions or comments on WordPress plugins? Send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

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