Essential WordPress Plugins for your Craft Seller Blog or Shop
Welcome to Episode 23 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. In this episode I will be discussing which plugins are important for your craft seller blog or standalone craft shop. Find out the free options available and discover what I use myself.
Listen to the Essential WordPress Plugins for your Craft Seller Blog or Shop podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
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This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number twenty-three – Essential WordPress Plugins for your Craft Seller Blog or Shop
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
Many craft sellers, use WordPress for a crafty blog or standalone shop. Episode 4 of the podcast was called A Self Hosted WordPress Site for Craft Sellers and episode 20 was Building a Standalone Craft Shop with WordPress and Woocommerce. These have been two of the most popular episodes so far.
One of the big strengths of WordPress is the ability to add small mini-programs, called Plugins, that can handle different tasks for us. There are many, many thousands of these plugins available, with more being added every day. Some are free, some have a one-off payment, and some require a subscription.
In this episode, I am going to talk about some of the most useful plugins that a craft seller may need in their blog or e-commerce shop. In particular, I will mention popular free options and will also say what I personally use and recommend.
All the plugins mentioned are links to their relevant websites.
If you allow people to comment on your blog posts or add content to your site then you are going to be susceptible to spam. Sadly there are a lot of people out there who spam websites with adverts, links to viruses and malware and other dodgy practices. Whilst you may be fine for ages, one day you could find your website has crashed because it has been spammed so much with this stuff.
Luckily there are ways to fight it, and often to prevent it altogether.
This is one of the most popular plugins there is. It is very easy to use, just install to your WordPress, create an account and let it stop the spammers. It is from the people who created WordPress, so very well maintained and reliable.
I currently use Akismet on this, the Tin Teddy Blog.
I have a couple of friends who swear by this free plugin. If you are using the default WordPress comments it works very well. However, it does not work if your blog comments are powered by either the Jetpack or Disqus comment system plugins.
Your website is precious to you. There are quite a few ways that things could go very wrong, very quickly. You may think that no one would bother hacking your little blog, but what if someone did? What if you deleted something important by accident? What if the server that stores your website crashed? What if.. what if…
Every website owner should think about backing up their site. And there are quite a few ways to do this.
You can manually back it up, by copying all the files to another location, but this requires a bit of technical knowledge and is time-consuming.
Your hosting service may have some sort of good back up service available, either as part of your hosting plan or for a small extra fee. This could well be worth checking out. They will back up from the server and can reinstall things if something did go wrong. The back up will usually be totally automatic and once you have subscribed to the service, you can relax and let them take care of it.
Many craft sellers use a plugin to back up their blog or shop from within WordPress. I do this myself, though I may move to an automatic paid-for service in the near future, just for speed etc.
I am currently using this free plugin as one of the backup systems on my websites (I also back up manually using FTP, as mentioned earlier).
My Tin Teddy Blog site is now quite large, with lots of pages and images. This can make backing up using a plugin a rather slow affair. After having tried other back-up plugins, I found this one to be the fastest and most reliable.
This is another popular free plugin.
I originally used the free version on my Tin Teddy Blog for backups but found it took a very long time (my site is quite big, of course). I have friends who tell me that for smaller sites it is fantastic, but there is a threshold after which it gets sluggish, as I found.
If you have the paid-for version of the popular Jetpack plugin (more on this in a minute) then you will have access to their automatic backup service. I am seriously considering using this in the future as it seems like very good value for money compared with similar services elsewhere.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
There are plugins that can help your SEO. In other words, they help you set up your site and listings so that they are more easily found by people using search engines such as Google. As getting found is very important for blogs and e-commerce sites, many craft sellers use a plugin like this to help them out.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
This is a very popular SEO plugin and available in a free and premium version. I use the free version on my Tin Teddy blog at the moment. It helps me ensure that my blog posts are optimized for the most potent keyphrase, that they are well balanced and readable and various similar things. When I first started using it I found my website views went up a lot, so I guess it works. It was very easy to set up and use.
I have considered the premium version which has more features as many do sound very useful indeed.
Yoast sends out regular emails which contain lots of genuinely useful information on SEO and optimizing a WordPress site. I have learnt a lot from their articles and highly recommend them.
This is also a popular SEO plugin and I have seen many people saying it is better for your website performance than the Yoast one.
It has most of the same features of Yoast, the two are very similar. It also comes in a free and premium version.
One advantage of the All-in-One SEO pack is that a license for the premium version covers multiple websites and includes their WooCommerce specific features.
Therefore if you have more than one website, and want to use the premium version of the plugins, it may be much cheaper to use the All In One SEO pack over Yoast. If you have just one site then the Yoast premium plugin is cheaper – but the WooCommerce add-on is not included in it.
I have just installed the free version of this plugin in my new (still under construction) Tin Teddy shop to try it out. If it works well I will probably get the premium version for use on all my sites.
There are other SEO plugins available too. Some are more suitable for beginners, some more for advanced WordPress users.
Caching and Speed
Speed is very important in today’s internet. If your website is slow and sluggish, your visitors will get grumpy and move on. Plus Google likes fast websites so you will do better in search results if you have a speedy blog or shop.
There are quite a few plugins that can help speed up your website in various ways. I will be doing a later podcast all about ways to speed up your site with lots of other hints and tips, so stay tuned.
If you intend to try a few caching programs to see which works best for you, remember that it may take a little while for the speed benefit to start showing. Give it a few days.
You will also need to clear your website cache yourself when starting a new caching plugin or you will still be getting files from the old system. There is an option to do this at the very top of the WordPress screen.
Jetpack by WordPress.com
This is a particularly powerful plugin from the guys at WordPress themselves. It features lots of different functions that you can turn on or off as you require. I use this plugin on both my Tin Teddy Blog and my new shop site.
Although Jetpack has many features that you may wish to use, one of the most popular is the site accelerator, which was previously called Photon.
All you need to do is click a switch and it will get to work. What it does it optimizes your images and some script files, then sends them to WordPress’s extensive network of servers, all around the world. Then when someone visits your site, the images they see will come from the nearest server to them. This should result in much faster page loading speeds.
Jetpack is free, so easy to try out to see if it makes a difference for you. There is a premium version too which includes some rather nice features such as the powerful backup option I previously mentioned and other protection.
This is one of the most popular caching plugins. It currently costs from $39 a year. For this, you are getting one of the most sophisticated caching systems out there.
If you feel you are having a big issue with speed on your website, it may well be worth the cost.
WP TotalCache and WP SuperCache
Both of these plugins are free and have over a million downloads. If you are looking for speed on a budget they are worth checking out.
I am currently using WP SuperCache on the Tin Teddy Blog.
If you want to sell things from your WordPress website, there are numerous ways to do so. You can easily add a Paypal button for just one item, for example. Or you could use a paid service like Shopify to incorporate the services.
I personally use the free plugin, WooCommerce. For much more about this plugin and using it to create an online craft selling shop, check out episode 20 which was Building a Standalone Craft Shop with WordPress and Woocommerce.
WooCommerce is by far the most popular e-commerce plugin for WordPress, but there are others out there if you want to check out the options.
For other ways to use your blog to earn money, check out episode 29, Monetizing Your Craft Blog.
Most craft sellers want to know certain information about their websites, such as how many people visit, where those people come from, how long they stay, which pages they visit the most and so on. For all this information, and a lot more, many use Google Analytics, which is free.
There are various ways to connect your WordPress site to Google Analytics, but using a plugin is one of the easiest.
Google Analytics for WordPress by Monster Insights
I use this free plugin on my new shop site. It is quick and easy to use and walks you through the process of connecting your site to Google Analytics. It also will show you some of the most useful info right on your WordPress Dashboard.
There is a paid version with more features if you fancy.
I will do a podcast episode dedicated to Google Analytics soon.
You may well want to have some sort of form on your website. Popular uses are so that customers can easily fill one in to contact you or to allow your visitors to request a custom order from your shop. There are some really good free plugins that will make setting up forms very easy.
This is the cut-down version of the (rather expensive but powerful) WPForms. I know many people use this plugin for their contact forms.
Contact Form 7
This is the plugin I have used in all my WordPress based sites. It is lightweight, easy to use and works very reliably.
Whilst I also provide visitors to my sites with my email, being able to fill in and submit a simple form can be quicker and easier for them than having to open their mail programs etc.
Mailing List and Followers
Having a way for your visitors to sign up to your newsletter or mailing list is very important for many craft sellers.
I use the popular newsletter service from MailChimp. There are a few ways to add sign-ups in your WordPress blog or shop, but a particularly simple and convenient one is to use the Mailchimp Plugin to do it.
There is another plugin, Mailchimp for WooCommerce that not only allows visitors to an e-commerce site to sign up for newsletters, but also can take over the sending of many of the emails a craft seller needs. This includes ones for new customers, when orders are complete and when customers want to know if an item comes back in stock. You can set up your MailChimp account so that these emails include adverts for other products, announcements and many other marketing features.
Both basic plugins are free, as is MailChimp, for the first 2000 subscribers, after that it requires a monthly subscription.
I also use the Bloglovin plugin on the Tin Teddy Blog. This allows people to follow the blog via the handy Bloglovin service, which is free. I get quite a few followers through this system so it has been worth including it.
The handy Jetpack plugin can also deal with people who want to sign up to follow your blog and get updates when you publish new posts. I have been using this plugin for years and am happy with it.
If you are in the process of building your website, you may well want to prevent people from visiting the site until you are ready for the big opening. Again there are plugins that can help you with this.
Coming Soon and Maintenance Mode by SeedProd
I have used this wonderful free plugin for all my WordPress sites. It allows you to set up a simple landing page that anyone trying to visit your site will see, denying them access to the site proper. Only someone who is logged into your WordPress, ie you, can see the normal site pages. You can customise the landing page with images etc.
You just turn it off when the website is ready to go live. And you can also use it as a maintenance mode page whilst you work on your website and don’t want visitors to see it. It is very easy to set up.
There is also a premium version with lots more options which would be well worth considering if you build a lot of websites.
You will also need to let visitors know that you are using cookies. This is usually done with a little pop-up window that the visitor can click to show they understand.
Some of the “multitask” plugins, such as Jetpack, contain options to handle this cookie consent for you. I am currently using the Jetpack Cookies & Consent Banner widget on the Tin Teddy Blog and in my new shop.
However, there are many other free plugins that can do it if you prefer such as the simple to use GDPR Cookie Consent Banner by termly.
By the way, most GDPR plugins are able to tell whether a visitor is from the EU or not, so everyone else is not bothered by the pop-up.
There are also plugins to help you with marketing your blog posts or products. You may want to check them out.
This is a plugin I personally use and am very happy with. I use the paid for Pro version, and there is a free version too with a more limited range of features.
Social Warfare makes it very easy to do things like adding a Pinterest friendly image to your posts or products and to ensure things are set up properly for Twitter and Facebook shares. It also adds nice share buttons to your site, with lots of options.
There are a lot of people using Social Warfare, and I can see why.
There are quite a lot of different plugins, many free, that will enable you to add sharing buttons to your blog posts or product listings. These make it much easier for visitors to share your content on social media. Adding such buttons can really boost your visitors, so is worth looking into if you don’t already do this.
Spelling and Grammar
This plugin links your blog or shop to the Grammarly service, which will check your writing for spelling and grammatical errors, live in WordPress.
The basic version of Grammarly is free to use, and this is what I use to check my blog posts and podcast scripts. There is also a premium version that can do a LOT more checking and if you do a lot of writing may well be worth the investment.
You can also use the Grammarly website by copying and pasting your text, rather than within WordPress via the plugin if you prefer. This is what I now do as another plugin I was using clashed with the Grammarly one.
Jetpack – yes again
Jetpack also has an option to check your content for spelling and other errors. Whilst not as sophisticated as Grammarly, if you are using the Jetpack plugin anyway, this may be worth turning on.
How Many Plugins Should I Have?
Many WordPress experts will recommend that you use as few plugins as possible. A site with a very large number of plugins will probably experience slowing down because of it. Bear in mind though that some plugins are far “heavier” than others. Lots of small, lightweight plugins are likely to be better than just a couple of rather laggy ones.
Keep your plugins up to date, older versions may not function properly or cause your site to lag.
When browsing for suitable plugins, look for ones that have been recently updated and have been downloaded many times. If the plugin you are considering hasn’t been updated for a long time it may not work properly with the latest versions of WordPress, or with your other plugins.
All the plugins I have mentioned in this podcast are popular and maintained.
The more plugins you have, the more chance there is that one will clash in some way with another. Disable any you are not using, or delete them entirely if you are not going to want them again (or they are free, so you can just get a new copy if you do).
Consider where you can combine plugins. For example, the popular Jetpack plugin from WordPress themselves has multiple features and can take the place of quite a bunch of single-feature plugins. Or the Yoast and All-in-One SEO Pack plugins both can create XML sitemaps for you, meaning you don’t need another plugin just for this purpose.
Pretty much all WordPress sites have some plugins, and as I have just discussed, there are some functions that you probably need such as backups, spam protection and caching.
There are, of course, many more sorts of plugins out there to make your website look and function in all sorts of exciting ways. One of the best things about WordPress is the ability to really customise your site to what you want.
I would love to hear about the plugins you use on your own craft seller blog or shop. Do you agree with my favourites? Are there some you would like to recommend? Please leave your comments below.
The next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 24 is called Free Websites that could Help Your Craft Business, it will be out on the 5th of March 2019.
Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson
Original music by Matthew French
Helping craft sellers to sell their crafts.