Our Top 5 Must-Have WordPress Plugins

wordpress plugins
WordPress hoodie, for the ultimate WordPress fan-person.

WordPress is the most popular blogging platform on the Internet: as of this time last year, it powered 22% of all new websites. There’s a good reason too: it’s structure is designed to make it easier to get a site up and running (and keep it running) than if you had to build your own website completely from scratch. Part of that power comes from the plugin system, which extends the WordPress framework to include features programmed by outside developers – kind of like Apple’s App store. There are thousands of plugins, most designed for very narrow purposes, and it can be hard to figure out which ones may help your blog. Our top five favorite suggestions for WordPress plugins to help keep your site running smoothly and securely:

For only $15 a month, the Vaultpress plugin promises continual backup of your entire site, plus a simple one-click site restore if something ever goes terribly wrong. It was created by the team at Automattic…the parent company of WordPress itself.

SEO by Yoast
Wordpress’ design makes it fairly search engine-friendly, but it never hurts to give your rankings a boost. This plugin helps search engines find your content, with a foolproof checklist of steps for each post, including optimizing your post titles, meta descriptions, keyword frequency and url length.

It’s bad for your site if people are running into pages that don’t work (404 errors). Redirection lets you check a log of where users encountered 404 errors so you can fix them, and makes it easy to set up page redirects even if you don’t have the technical knowledge.

Wordpress stores all of the data you put into your website in a database, but it doesn’t necessarily do a great job of keeping that database clean. But cleaner databases are faster databases. WP-Optimize lets you clean up your database (by deleting things like post revisions and spam comments) without any technical knowledge.

Mobile Pack
There’s a lot of pressure to make sure your site looks good on mobile devices, but it can be a confusing and expensive endeavor – and probably deserves its own blog post! But it’s better to do something then nothing, so try Mobile Pack. It will let you set up your site with a theme designed for mobile devices, and takes are the guesswork out of trying to plan for all the different devices out there. It may not be your dream site, but it’s functional and that’s important.

Do you use WordPress? Are there any WordPress Plugins we missed you love? Let us know!

Adobe Flash: It’s Time to Move On

HTML5 Badge: HTML5 is replacing FlashFor years, web developers (and clients) loved Flash. It allowed creativity (and marketing!) unbounded by the crude design capabilities of html and css, and it seems like there was a time where every site had invested in a flash intro, full of sweeping graphics and logo fades.

Well, the time of the Flash intro is over. It sounds harsh, but for most small businesses, if you’re still using Flash it’s time to update your site ASAP. Why? Well, it’s a mobile world, and Adobe’s battle with Apple means that iDevices will never, ever support Flash. It’s just not going to happen, and it seems like we’ve gotten used to it at this point. And as of now, Android devices have stopped supporting Flash too. On August 15th the Google Play store pulled Flash, so that Android users will no longer be able to install Flash, and the upcoming Android release (4.1 Jellybean) will not include Flash at all. Users that already have Flash will continue to receive security updates, but that’s it.

That’s not to say Flash is going anywhere for awhile. Flash content is still incorporated in many sites across the web, mostly through video. And it takes a long time for technology to be completely “phased out;” Windows 8 will still support Flash, and it’s still the way that video providers deal with the rights. Eventually we’ll be moving to HTML5, the latest set of web standards that supports more sophisticated and interactive content, as well as incorporating video standards. But right now, HTML5 isn’t completely supported by all browsers, so we’re still in a kind of standards limbo.

So what is a small business person to do? First and foremost, don’t use Flash, unless you have technical needs that absolutely demand it. If a cutting-edge web presence is crucial to your brand image, then HTML5 is a good idea, as long as you make sure it degrades gracefully and your important content can still be seen by people in IE7. But for most small businesses, reliability and browser cross-compatibility is preferable to cutting-edge technology. Aim for a quality website presence that doesn’t rely on Flash and instead can be viewed easily by anyone anytime on just about any device.

Questions? Leave them for us in the comments – we’ll do our best to help!

Launchrock helps your start-up make a website in minutes

As a developer, I always have a few web start-up ideas incubating.  And as the technology arm of a new venture, it’s up to me to get something put together quickly so that we can start building an audience and a name for ourselves.  At the same time, I have to balance that with quality and stability.  If you throw something up too fast, the technology (and sometimes the entire concept) may not be fully fleshed out, with embarrassing results.

Thankfully, I’ve found launchrock, a great new site that lets you toss up clean-looking ‘launching soon’ pages really quickly.   Read More

Central.ly – Maybe Your Business Doesn’t need a Website?

“Your business needs a website” is what just about EVERY person will tell you when dishing their $.02 cents about running a business. Maybe your business doesn’t need a website. I know that’s a pretty cavalier statement, but what if all you REALLY need is a web presence? Central.ly wants to be your businesses professional landing page that you can set up without any coding knowledge.

The hook to Central.ly is how easy it is to set up. Similar to the about.me service that gives users the ability to create a personal landing page (check mine out here), Central.ly lets you enter your businesses basic information – name, introduction, and upload your logo. Your changes happen real-time, so you can actually see your progress as you add, remove, or edit your content. You can also add a high-resolution background to really give your landing page some pop. You can choose from several designs and add links to all of your social-networking sites. Central.ly also offers a small level of analytics so you can track when somebody visits your page.

Your Central.ly site will reformat to look good on mobile devices as well. So in one fell-swoop, you can quickly get up on the web (traditional and mobile) in no time. Central.ly site is good for any size business, but in my opinion, it’s great for the entrepreneur, independent contractor, freelancer, sole proprietor, small business owner, self employed, musician, free agent consultant, artist that ONLY needs to be able to answer the question “What’s your web address?”

For more information, check out the Central.ly page and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Google Sites Adds Automatic Mobile Rendering


Using the uber-powerful Google Apps service, small business owners can manage email, contacts, calendars, documents, and add-on additional business management tools/apps/services that can essentially handle ALL of your business needs. One service that may be under-valued is the ability to create a full-blown website for your business in a matter of minutes (maybe just a tad longer) using Google Sites. Maybe the addition of automatic mobile rendering of Google Sites may entice more small biz owners to create a Google site and also knock-out your site’s ability to be visually appealing on mobile devices in one fell swoop.

As fast as it takes users to create a Google site, it is as equally as fast to make your site mobile. A new option in the general settings named “Automatically adjust site for mobile phones” adjusts your site on the fly whenever it’s viewed by Apple  (OS 3.0+) and Android (OS 2.2+) devices.


Activate the above option, and several portions of your site (header, site width, sidebars, etc.) will be formatted to look all nice on iPhones and Androids. Additional modifications you can make include hiding or enabling “View Site as Desktop” option, “Sign-in” or “Print Page” link. You can view your changes and tweak them on the go as well by visiting http://sites.google.com from any iOS or Android device.

Now with the new Google Sites mobile rendering feature, there is NO EXCUSE for your business, no matter how small, to NOT have 1) A website 2) a mobile-friendly website.

Android Market is now Online

And I quote:

“Personally, I think Google’s first order of business would be to greatly improve its own Marketplace on the web and give people the option to buy and “push” apps directly to their phones, but that’s just me.”

That was me yesterday taking shots at the shotty Android Market site in the “Google Apps Labs is hiring” post. Well Google stepped their game up and expanded their Android Market site that lets visitors browse apps, read reviews, and install apps directly their Android device.

So now, instead of squinting at your Android device to decide whether or not to install a particular app (even with the huge screens like the HTC Evo), now you can search apps (keyword search, categories, featured, top paid, top free), view app descriptions, read user submitted reviews, check compatibility, and more from the comfort of you much larger laptop screen or desktop monitors.

Signing in to your Android Market account gives you the ability to view your download history and buy and download apps directly to your smartphone. All apps also offer QR Code so you can scan the app and start a download to your phone as well.

Nothing fancy (they could work on the design work a little), but beggers can’t be choosers, so as an initial attempt at providing Android users a “real” online home to find apps to download, the new Android Market site is looking pretty good.

Check it out and let us know what you think in the comments section.

WordPress Version 3.0.2 Update Stresses Security

This is one of those updates that I would stress you do if your business has an online presence via WordPress. Scratch that, WordPress herself is stressing that you update to this latest version.

and I quote:

WordPress 3.0.2 is available and is a MANDATORY SECURITY UPDATE for all previous WroPress versions.

There it is, straight from the horses mouth source. here is more of the release notes:

This maintenance release fixes a moderate security issue that could allow a malicious Author-level user to gain further access to the site, addresses a handful of bugs, and provides some additional security enhancements. Big thanks to Vladimir Kolesnikov for detailed and responsible disclosure of the security issue!

Download 3.0.2 or update automatically from the Dashboard > Updates menu in your site’s admin area. You should update immediately even if you do not have untrusted users.

Sounds pretty important right? I suggest you head on over to WordPress downloads and do what you gotta do.

Be the FIRST to know that your Website is Down with Pingdom

Getting an email or a phone call from a customer saying “something is wrong with your website” could quite possibly crush any dream at future business from that customer or other potential clients surfing the web for information about your business. Let’s be realistic, there are going to be times that your site may be down for whatever reason and in most of those cases, you may not be able to get it back up before anyone notices. But at the very least, you could be the first to know that your site is down so you can get into “damage control” a little quicker.

With the online monitoring service Pingdom, you will be notified as soon as your site is down, in addition to normal uptime and performance monitoring when things are going just fine. Pingdom is not just for website monitoring either. You can monitor mail servers, DNS servers, FTP servers, networks, and much more.

The Pingdom service monitors websites and servers from multiple locations on the Internet, making sure that they are working. If your site stops working, Pingdom will alert you immediately. Based on your settings, you can have Pingdom inform you and via email or SMS as soon as we detect a problem with your sites or servers. Since Pingdom tests your site as often as every minute you can be quickly informed of any problems. Pingdom also provides reports and updates that track the performance of your sites and servers through the lifetime of your Pingdom account. They allow you to see various trends in downtime, response time and load time.

You can choose to:

– Receive email or txt messages of alerts, updates or notifications

– Login to your Pingdom account online

– Download the Desktop Notifier on your XP, Vista or Windows 7 PC (sorry Mac folks)


*drumroll please*

– Download the free Pingdom iPhone app (iOS 3.0 and up) that lets you connect to Pingdom and view the current status of the websites and services you are monitoring. Additional app features include receiving push alerts to your iPhone, getting information about each check, and customizing the list of shown checks.

A Pingdom account, the iPhone app, and the Desktop Notifier for PC are all FREE, provided to choose either the Basic Plan that includes 5 checks (websites, FTP sites, servers, etc) for $10 bucks a month; or, the Business Plan that includes 30 checks for $40 bucks a month. If you are an individual or a small business and just want to check ONE site/service, there is in fact a free plan that also includes 20 text messages.

If you are a business with an online presence, website downtime can be a thorn in your side, if not the nail in your coffin. The ability to troubleshoot and resolve issues quickly to get your site back up and running is only valuable if you actually know that your site is down. Sure, you could constantly watch your site, like you have nothing else productive to do, or you could get with Pingdom and rest knowing you will be the first to know that your website is down, and quite possibly avoid those embarrassing “did you know your website was down” messages that can be a ding on your reputation.

Don’t ignore the basics – a website that works

Are websites still necessary for a small business? 

Only if you want someone to know how to that you are open for business, what you do, who you are and how to contact you.  Today’s consumer goes online for information.  If you aren’t there to be found you put the burden on yourself to reach each and every potential customer.  And when you do contact the customer, they don’t have the ability to confirm your message or contact information.  A simple website provides reassurance and serves the role of the old yellow page ad.

Is it something that you can do ‘eventually’? 

Ideally, staking your claim to a URL is part of the business start-up process.  Your website is part of your marketing and getting the right name and right website address will ensure that your customers can find you.  The cost of getting your domain name (web address), web hosting and the design of basic website can be the most effective marketing return-on-investment available.   Don’t be concerned that your starter website doesn’t have all the bells and whistles from the beginning.  It is most important that you secure your domain name and that the basic who, why, how and where are answered.  A more ambitious web strategy can come later; be sure to claim your space.

 Be sure to get the affiliated email addresses and use them in your business.  You can forward the email to whichever account you prefer to use, but don’t waste the opportunity to reinforce your business name in all of your communications.  Using a free email service in your business communication shows that you aren’t investing your own trust in your business.