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8 Must-Have WordPress Plugins for the Ultimate DIY Author Website

As promised, here is the second post in our Ultimate DIY Author Website series, all about plugins. Check out the first post, DIY Author WordPress Site: 5 Skills for Success, if you haven’t yet. You can also view other great website content on BW Web Expert Tyler Doornbos’s profile page. When it comes to building… [Read More]

8 best WordPress plugins for DIY author websites by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

As promised, here is the second post in our Ultimate DIY Author Website series, all about plugins. Check out the first post, DIY Author WordPress Site: 5 Skills for Success, if you haven't yet. You can also view other great website content on BW Web Expert Tyler Doornbos's profile page.


When it comes to building a DIY WordPress site, finding the right plugins is one of the keys to a high-quality end product. You can save time with plugins in two ways: first, plugins inject tons of new functionality into your site, allowing you to do things that would otherwise require a skilled developer and hundreds or thousands of dollars to accomplish. Second, choosing the right plugins will save you an enormous amount of time and headache over the wrong plugins.

Because the WordPress plugin repository is open to all developers, not all plugins are created equal. Choose carefully, and when possible, consult an experienced website builder to help choose and configure your plugins for the best result. You'll be happy you went with quality software and sound advice.

My experience comes from the perspective of running a small, high-end studio in the Midwest for years, having done hundreds of website builds during that time. The plugins that we're sharing below are the ones we use and love every day in our little studio.

 

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[The aforementioned little studio's sitting room ↑ ]

Word of warning—when we build sites, we go for quality, so some of the plugins below do not have a free version, or the Pro version should be used. We think that the small investment is well worth the massive increase in quality and capability. These are the pieces of software that we use on actual client projects, and as a result, have to stand up to a huge amount of use and go into creating an end product that our very demanding clients can be proud of.

Also, we are very much about plugins that have a lot of functionality—something that takes the place of 2 or more other plugins, if possible. We use these to decrease the overall plugin load and make our sites faster and more reliable.

The 8 Best Plugins for Author Websites

8 best WordPress plugins for DIY author websites by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

Elementor Page Builder

For us, this is a non-negotiable. A good page builder replaces the standard WordPress editor (which is a bit like MS Word) with a full-featured drag-and-drop builder. Once you get over the learning curve, these builders will save $1000s in developer and designer fees. You can even use pre-built templates to create complete, complex page layouts. These builders work with nearly any theme and can make an otherwise mundane site into something remarkable.

We recommend Elementor, as it's the most user-friendly, mobile responsive and stable builder we've found. An alternative (and a great option as well) is the WPBakery Page Builder. Get Elementor Pro for even more features and building options—it's well worth the $49/year.

8 best WordPress plugins for DIY author websites by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.comGravity Forms

Gravity Forms is simply put, the essential form builder for WordPress. You need more than just contact forms for your site. Whether you are having a sign up for a giveaway, subscriptions to your mailing list or a request form for appearances, you need to have a solid form plugin.

Gravity forms gives you nearly unlimited power to build, connect and enhance your users' form experience. Plus, the pro version connects to many third-party services, allowing you to send email addresses to any of the most popular email marketing apps, such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact.

Gravity Forms does not have a free version, so expect to pay $59/year for the privilege of using it. Worth every cent.

8 best WordPress plugins for DIY author websites by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

Yoast WordPress SEO

One of the most important metrics for any website is the users finding it on organic search. If you build it, they will NOT come. You have to get them there, and one of the ways is by setting up your website's posts and pages with a good SEO foundation.

Yoast SEO is the gold standard for WordPress SEO and has been for years. It allows you to set many of the behind-the-scenes pieces of data that search engines use to find your site, such as titles and meta keywords. Even better, you can control the open graph data—in layman's terms, the photo, title, and description that show up when the link is shared on social media. Having the ability to control how your brand is represented on other people's social accounts is worth its weight in gold— but this plugin is totally free.

8 best WordPress plugins for DIY author websites by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

Akismet

Okay, okay, so this is the basic anti-spam plugin that comes packaged with WordPress, and yes, it's not free. But guess what? Because it's packaged with WordPress, it's the most trusted, most reliable anti-spam plugin out there. And the cost is about $5/month. A small price to pay for fewer knockoff Levitra spam posts in your comments. Don't skip it—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

8 best WordPress plugins for DIY author websites by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

WP Fastest Cache

We've tried EVERY caching plugin for WordPress—software that helps your site move faster by compressing files and storing code in a way that loads more quickly—and WP Fastest Cache is our favorite. It's proven to be the quickest, easiest and add caching that is provably faster using speed testers like Pingdom and GTMetrix.

8 best WordPress plugins for DIY author websites by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

All In One WP Security

WordPress sites are the make up the single largest swath of sites on the web, and this means one thing: hackers love to develop methods to crack them. You absolutely have to harden your site against attacks. All In One WP Security is a great answer.

8 best WordPress plugins for DIY author websites by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

AMP for WordPress

This is the official Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) plugin for WordPress. This takes your blog posts and pages and makes them into super fast-loading, mobile-friendly versions of themselves. Sites with AMP pages rank better on google than do other sites, and the content is better used by those performing mobile searches—an increasing percentage of all searches.

8 best WordPress plugins for DIY author websites by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

Jetpack

Jetpack is a plugin from WordPress that packages a lot of the great features of WordPress.com, the hosted and managed WordPress, into your self-hosted WordPress site. It gives you social sharing tools, fast image loading, and so, so much more. Such a great plugin, and with absolutely no cost to you, just a free WordPress.com account, you are good to go.


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4 thoughts on “8 Must-Have WordPress Plugins for the Ultimate DIY Author Website”

  1. Stanislav says:

    Not a bad list, although like any set of tools (just like programming languages, frameworks, and IDEs) there will be fans of other ones that are just as legitimate. My rambling/chaotic $0.02 (maybe worth $0.002 🙂 )

    Currently, I like Elegant Theme’s DIVI for building pages. (It is both a plugin and theme). There are some very nice plugins taylored specifically for DIVI also (such as custom javascript that can add very easily).

    I go back and forth on the Jetpack. It is so big that it feels like overkill/too much. I have run the google analytics on the difference between using it and not and over time it doesn’t seem that bad, but it feels bloated.

    Gravity forms is new to me. I do NOT like yearly fees though. Generally, with a good UI builder it seems like forms plugins are not worth it. Most UI builders already interface with Mailchimp (for example) well, so you are paying for the logic aspect, which I just don’t think your AVERAGE author needs as a “must have” … generally your average author is going to have subscribe and events. The selling of an author is not the same as other goods, which is what this is geared toward. I could be wrong, but with the recent Author Guild Survey showing your average “median author income of $6,080” it may not be for everyone. I also don’t like that there is no video/demo SITE for Gravity. Rather, they do a pretty hard sell by having you sign up for a demo version of the plugin.

    Ninjaforms is free, it might be a better solution for those who don’t need quite everything in Gravity.

    The hardest thing, which a plugin won’t solve, but might make easier, is keeping the site fresh and dynamic. Authors tend to focus on writing…forgetting to do things to keep the website dynamic. I know my own issues are there, where to put energy?! I like learning new WP stuff, I work on writing, I work on podcasting, I work on too many things…and they all suffer!

    1. Stanislav —

      Great thoughts — thanks! I’ve used Divi, but at the in the past haven’t really cared for it. I will say that the newest version with the reasonably solid front-end (view page while editing, for those not familiar with the verbiage) editor is pretty good.

      Elementor does have a solid form builder (https://elementor.com/blog/advanced-form-fields/), though I think that Gravity gives you more options, and we love the functionality for building and integrating forms. As you get more advanced, the routing and conditional features are great.

      As for solving the content/posting dilemma, there is a WP editorial calendar (h/t to Make a Living Writing for this one https://www.makealivingwriting.com/12-essential-free-wordpress-plugins-for-your-writer-website/).

      I’ve not used the editorial calendar plugin personally, though it looks like a solid way to work through the content/reminder/posting needs. However, like anything else you undertake, it really comes down to setting up your own system of reminder and setting aside time for it as a crucial branding and marketing task. (Though I hear you on wearing too many hats!)

  2. Adrijus G. says:

    I’d recommend adding a plug in for limiting log-in amount permitted. That helps prevent hacking.

    Also, I’ve used WordFence for security plugin too, free and very good.

    1. Adrijus —

      Agree on the login limiting plugin. There’s a really great guide from Sucuri (recommended above) on limiting vulnerabilities. https://sucuri.net/guides/wordpress-security

      As for WordFence, we’ve used it here, and are impressed with it. It’s definitely a great alternative to Sucuri.

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