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7 Commercial WordPress Plugins / Services that Helped Me Grow My Blogs

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Elegant Themes
7 Commercial WordPress Plugins / Services that Helped Me Grow My Blogs

WordPress is a phenomenal platform. There are tons of free plugins, themes, resources out there that will help you grow your blog. There are also tons of commercial (paid) plugins / services that will help you grow your blog as well. Now how do you know what you really need? The only way is from experience. I have been using WordPress since 2006 and learnt a lot from my experience. If you are really conservative when it comes to spending like myself, then you will find this list helpful. I have compiled a list of 7 commercial plugins or services that helped me grow my blog.

Note: This list is applicable for users with a self-hosted WordPress blog.

WordPress Hosting

There are so many web hosting providers out there. Which one should you pick? I hosted with numerous web hosting companies until 2007 when I stumbled upon to a provider known as HostGator. Now I am very conservative (cheap) no matter how much money I make. I got 1 baby plan and put all of my sites on it. Turned out it wasn’t enough. Now, I wasn’t ready to upgrade. I bought 2 additional baby plans and spread my sites out. Remember, it says UNLIMITED bandwidth and space. Well, it is for unlimited if you are small, but if your sites take a lot of server load, then they force you to upgrade. I kept my hosting bill low for as long as possible. Then when they told me, I had too many sites on my baby plans, I finally moved to their reseller hosting (a mid level shared hosting). Now instead of having 3 baby plans, I had one reseller account with all sites hosted in there. Once I start seeing higher traffic, I moved up to a VPS. Now, we are running a Dedicated Server that powers my blogs. Its about 5 years since I have been using this company and I haven’t been disappointed yet. Best part about my experience was that all the times I upgraded, I didn’t see huge down times. There was almost no work involved on my part. Their support is very very helpful and prompt. I have used the live chat and phone both. Although, now I usually stick with phone for expedited requests. I find that everyone finds live chat to be convenient, so they all use it. This makes the phone support a lot faster.

Now people try to accuse me of up selling HostGator because they offer great affiliate commission. But the truth is, I have been recommending HostGator since day 1. The reason why it is my first recommendation is because I USE them. WPBeginner and List25 both runs on HostGator.

I was even able to convince my friend and famous blogger, John Chow, to switch over when he started having issues with his host. He really loves the support and quality of the hosting.

I have some HostGator Coupons if you plan on signing up.

Summary: Pick a provider that can help you scale. If I had chosen another hosting company that only offers shared hosting and nothing more. Then I would have to switch companies. I like to work with the same group of people if I can (trust issues). There are higher-end managed solutions out there, but they limit you to 1 domain or xx,xxx pageviews / month. Its definitely not something that a new blogger can afford.

Backup

Backups are one thing that every blogger/webmaster should have. If you are updating your site daily, then you should have daily backups. If your site is really huge and get a lot of comments then you should consider having backups few times a day. Now, I am NOT saying that something bad will happen. I’m saying it CAN happen. I have always been anal about protecting our data and keeping backups just in case if anything happens. For all, I can accidentally wipe out things (yup, I have done this before – This is how I learned). For a good while, I always relied on keeping everything on my computer as organized as possible. The only thing I used was WP-DB Backup. Its a free solution, it backs up my database and sends it to a Gmail account. I have all the files in my computer (nothing can go wrong). You are DEAD WRONG. How about a hard drive failure? Yeah, again thankfully when my hard drive failed my site was fully functional. I quickly jumped on the boat with BackupBuddy which backs up my entire site in cloud (here is a tutorial for BackupBuddy). That was working fine, but the down side was we were only making one backup a day (Note: you can make multiple backups a day as pointed out in the comment by one of our users). Making one backup per day could be a problem if you have multiple authors simultaneously working on different posts every day. Losing all of their hard work wastes time on our end. I finally decided to join the VaultPress revolution. Started by Matt Mullenweg (WordPress co-founder) and his team (Automattic), I knew I could trust these guys. Running VaultPress has given me a peace of mind because I know that my blog is backed up real-time and it is SAFE. Not to mention, it is totally hassle free. All you have to do is put your API Key and let the magic happen. To give you an example look at the activity screenshot from when I was writing this post:

VaultPress Activity

Yup 8 seconds ago. So every single word that I write here is being backed up in a cloud server. If I ever need to fix something, I have my full-site backups there (plugins, images, database, etc).

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

When my blogs started to get a lot of traffic, it increased server load thus slowed the sites down a bit. Slow sites effect your Search Engine Ranking, and is bad for user experience. Very timely, I was approached by the sales team at MaxCDN. It was like just another sales pitch, but for some reason it had a personal touch to it. I did my research on what is a CDN. There were bunch of techy geek talk out there that I didn’t understand. So I decided to call their team. They explained things to me, and we got off to a great start. Ever since I implemented MaxCDN, I haven’t looked back. My sites are faster, and it keeps our server load low. For those who are wondering What is a CDN and Why you need it, then check out the infographic that I created.

I have been using this service for a while now, and I can tell you first hand these guys are amazing. I have met the company’s President (Chris Ueland), VP of Marketing (David Henzel) and other team members. They have become great friends (outside work). I know that I am in good hands.

If you use the coupon “wpbeginner” then you will save $10. My advice would be to spend $30 after coupon discount for 1TB of bandwidth. You will automatically see a difference in load time. If you are a smaller site, then the 1TB can even last you for a year. Except your site will be a lot FASTER.

Forms

Every blog needs a contact form. Some needs more advanced forms (such as lead generation form, client forms etc). For the longest time, I used plugins like cFormsII or Contact Form 7 (both free). They were very hard to maintain and setup. Luckily, while surfing twitter, I started seeing recommendations of this plugin called Gravity Forms. I asked around and then purchased the developers license. I can tell you that this plugin has saved me so much time and money that its unbelievable. Not only did I use it to create simple Contact forms, but I used it to create advanced lead generation forms. Heck, recently I used it to create a donate form for a non-profit organization.

Gravity Forms is a MUST HAVE plugin for form creation. The drag-drop interface really helps. Here is a Gravity Forms Coupon.

Email Newsletter

If you have been blogging for more than a few months, then you have already heard that the money is in the list. Everyone is trying to build huge email lists and send out newsletter (What, Why, and How-To’s of an Email Newsletter). I have used both Aweber and MailChimp (two leading providers). Recently, I find myself recommending MailChimp more and more for new users. Reason is simple. They are offering FREE account for up to 2,000 subscribers. Again, if you are cost-conservative or on a low budget, you want to get the maximum benefit. So you can get a free MailChimp account and start paying once you hit 2,000 subscribers (hopefully you will be making the money to afford it by then). MailChimp is a bit more stricter than Aweber in terms of unsubscribe rate. So if you have like 100 subscribers and 2 people unsubscribed, they will send you a warning because you have over 1% unsubscribe rate.

Ad Management

Most bloggers monetize with banner ads of some sort. In 2008, I ended up purchasing an ad management plugin called OIO Publisher. I have been using it since then to manage ads on my blogs. It lets people purchase ads directly through your site, pay via PayPal or other options, then it verifies if the payment came through. If it did, then it gives you the option to approve it or reject it. If you approve it, it will then display ads on your site. Depending on the expiration date, it expires the ad automatically. If the advertiser has a recurring subscription with you, then it makes sure that the payment was received. If it isn’t, then it informs you about it and take the ads off. To be honest, it is a very smart platform. Now it can even sell ads by eCPM. If you want to eliminate middle-man and simply sell ads, then I highly recommend getting OIO Publisher. I paid for it once, and I have gotten over 500x return already.

OptinMonster

People ask me all the time about what I use for the lightbox popups, or the footer bar plugins etc. The answer to that is OptinMonster. I created this plugin because all the other ones in the market were slow, buggy, and had terrible support. OptinMonster is a gem for marketers. If you are looking to build or grow your email list, then this is a must have plugin. Checkout my case study on how I used OptinMonster to increase my email subscribers by 600%. Here is a link for a OptinMonster Coupon if you decide to buy it.

All of the plugins or services I have mentioned above has helped me grow my blog. I am currently using all of the products mentioned above, and I love them. There are affiliate links in the article, so if you buy anything, I will get a commission. However, my recommendations would not change even if there was no commission involved. You can ask anyone who has met me in person, and I have recommended the same products (when there is no link to click). What are your thoughts about the products above? Would love to see a discussion going.


Editorial Staff at WPBeginner is a team of WordPress lovers led by Syed Balkhi. Page maintained by Syed Balkhi.

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  • Hagen

    Gravity forms. You should NOT recommend that to ordinary people. Far too expensive. Far too much smoke and mirrors. I didn’t mind GF so much, but it’s annual license is pathetically expensive considering what you get in return. For most people that is. I can see some might find it useful. Some with deep pockets and a habbit of driving expensive cars. For the rest of the people use Contact Form 7 and save your money.

    • http://www.wpbeginner.com/ WPBeginner Support

      Hagen, there is no doubt that Contact Form 7 is a good solution. However, Gravity forms is not just a contact form plugin any more. It comes with many advanced features not offered by contact form 7. We agree that it is a little bit expensive but since this article is about the plugins and services that helped us grow our blogs, we simply can not deny the role Gravity Forms played on our blogs.

  • http://www.weboptimizers.com.au/ reddy

    Great list. WordPress plug-ins are so useful & easy to use.

  • http://youronline.biz/ Jacko

    Excellent post.  Thanks for sharing. 
    What plugin do you recommend for security?  Backing up your data is extremely important.
     
    PS
    Your website has made it to the semis in the 1st annual #IBCT.  The goal of the tournament is to help people learn from the best. 

    • http://www.wpbeginner.com/ wpbeginner

       @Jacko Activity Monitor, Limit Login Attempt are the ones that we are using. We are also protecting admin / login access by IP.

  • http://www.7boats.com/ Debajyoti Banerjee

    Great list. I personally like pippity the most. Awesome plugin. No coding is required.

  • Kopepasah

    BackupBuddy does offer an HOURLY backup feature for both database and FULL files on your website (this is EVERY file hosted on your site): http://cl.ly/3m2u083U371d1V0P3C3b
     
    In addition, there are many features that VaultPress does not offer. Here is a break down of the latest versions (that I know of): http://pluginbuddy.com/backupbuddy-vaultpress/
     
    Sorry for the informational comment, but I think you are misrepresenting the true features of BackupBuddy.
     
    In addition, I did not even mention the features of Migrating and restoring a site with few clicks of a button. There is no doubt that BackupBuddy offers many more features (at a better price) than VaultPress.

    • http://www.wpbeginner.com/ wpbeginner

       @Kopepasah Hourly, weekly, daily, monthly, yearly…. It is still NOT real-time.Thank you for adding your comment while informational, it is a little bit BIASED considering you are part of iThemes (developing company of BackupBuddy).
       
      Also note: we have nothing against BackupBuddy. We have a tutorial on BackupBuddy. This article is placed in the OPINION category (because it is talking about the services WE ARE USING). Honestly, if someone is referring a product that doesn’t pay affiliate commission (VaultPress) over a product that pays a pretty nice affiliate commission (BackupBuddy), then it must mean that they really like the product. Obviously you can see that our opinion unlike yours has no ulterior motives. 
       
      BackupBuddy is nice for developers and advanced users. For newer users or those who do not have the time or skills, VaultPress is the best solution.
       
      Also not to be rude or anything, thanks for linking to a biased chart.
       
      Video Tutorials / Walkthrough (VaultPress) doesn’t need it. It is as simple as signing up and putting your API key. Exactly the reason why we are recommending it.
       
      Email Notification for what? I can’t imagine getting an email every 30 seconds saying we backed up your blog.
       
      Backing up non-wp files / non-wp data – Again we are talking about WordPress backup solutions not SERVER BACKUP SOLUTIONS. For those who are knowledgeable, they don’t need BackupBuddy for this either. One can simply use Amazon S3 sync and jets3t cockpit to do the job.
       
      Backup Intervals – User Selectable vs. non-configurable … Seriously?? If you can have a backup automated and real-time… what else do you need to configure??
       
      In short, the chart that you shared is designed to make BackupBuddy superior to VaultPress using marketing terminology/gimmicks.
       
      For those users who have a lot of small sites, and the technological skills, then BackupBuddy is a great solution for the cost. For majority of bloggers (VaultPress) is a better way to go.

      • Kopepasah

         @wpbeginner I don’t think you are being rude at all. Merely sharing your opinion (as am I).
         
        Could you imagine a world where everyone agreed? While it sounds nice, its the conflict and difference of opinion that drives thought and discussion. That’s why I was wondering if you were the type of blog to not approve comments because they do not agree with your thoughts.
         
        I am glad you are not. ;)
         
        While we may disagree on the qualities of BackupBuddy vs. Vaultpress, I assure the comparison I shared is based on fact, not opinion.
         
        As for my “bias opinion:” I create themes for iThemes not PluginBuddy. While our brands may be one and the same, I do not get money each time someone purchases a license of BackupBuddy (or our themes). Since I am not compensated like our affiliates (that you), it seems that your opinion would be more biased than mine. If you think VaultPress is a better solution than BackupBuddy, why do you put your affiliate link for BackupBuddy? Is that not obvious that you hope someone purchases BackupBuddy? Furthermore, if VaultPress had an affiliate program, I am quite certain that you would probably sign up.
         
        You went on further to write about the comparisons on the file I linked to, but I won’t go into too much detail here. However, I would like to say that just because a feature exists that YOU would not use (email notifications), does not mean that other users might find them useful.
         
        I would like to note that BackupBuddy does not require a developer at all. There is no need for a user to ever touch any code (something a developer does).
         
        Did we mention price? Oh yeah, it was covered on the ‘marketing gimmick’ I linked to. But while I am on the subject again, BackupBuddy is on 3.6% the price of VaultPress on a yearly basis. Something much more affordable for the ‘non-devs’ you are speaking of.
         
        Lastly, since you already think my opinion is biased, then you won’t mind if I provide my affiliate link for users to <a href=”http:kopepasah.com/recs/backupbuddy”>purchase BackupBuddy</a>! Now I think your first statement holds merit.
         
        I do hope to have more discussions with you in the future. Maybe with a beer in hand!
         
        Cheers!

        • http://www.wpbeginner.com/ wpbeginner

           @Kopepasah While you do not have direct benefits from the sales, iThemes Media LLC is the ones that receive payments from BackupBuddy sales, and iThemes Media LLC is signing your paychecks. 
           
          If VaultPress had an affiliate program, sure we would have signed up with them. Like we are affiliate partners with all other services we mentioned. If we can recommend a quality product that our users can benefit from as well as get a small commission (then there is nothing bad about it). As per putting a backupbuddy affiliate link, that is being done automatically by a plugin wherever BackupBuddy is mentioned because we think there is an audience that does find it useful.
           
          Again, if you haven’t noticed: we don’t have a problem with BackupBuddy. It is a great solution for some who have the knowledge, skills, and time to do it all themselves. 
           
          Just to clarify, the reason why we say developers is not because we mean they have to edit the code to use the plugin. It is often developers that have clients they manage (thus making BackupBuddy an affordable option).
           
          In regards to the email notification feature: It is great to get email notification saying your blog backup was made for today (1 email / day). But it would be pointless to get an email notification from VaultPress considering they are backing up the site (real-time)… The goal of pointing those “facts” out was to show the bias in comparison. If your site is being backed up real-time, would you like to receive an email every few minutes saying your site was backed up? Also they have the dashboard stats which you can check. Compare features that are comparable and are necessary. Putting a big X next to a so called “comparable feature” is totally a marketing gimmick because it is out of context.
           
          As per the clarification above to why we used the terminology Developer, BackupBuddy is not simple Plug n’ Play. There is configuration that is required. You have to setup Amazon S3 account, or another account. Configure it with BackupBuddy. If you have multiple medium sized sites, you will soon start paying for those hosting services whether it is S3 or Dropbox.
           
          Although normally, we delete comments that have any sort of affiliate link(s), we would let it slide this one time only as a warning to you. Only doing that just so you don’t start tweeting about your comment being censored. Next time, it will be fair game because we are letting you know. As for the price: you would compare the $150 / year to $4200 / year to show that you are 94% cheaper (marketing Gimmick)… without clarifying what exactly that price difference bring to a user. First of all the $4200 / year plan is an Enterprise level solution. Something that most of our users do not NEED. The fact that you are comparing a mere plugin to an enterprise level service shows the bias enough. It entails server costs, performance auditing, etc. Most importantly it includes the liability factor. 
           
          If you want to stay in reasonable grounds, our users would get the Basic Plan. So BackupBuddy is a more affordable solution (50% annual cost difference) in that sense.
           
          However that 50% extra brings peace of mind and takes the worry out. We don’t have to worry about backups because we know its being done automatically. Its like having an insurance policy. You would only know the benefit when you really need it. Putting our content in the hands of a company that holds and keeps millions of blogs safe is something we prefer and would happily pay an extra fee for it.
           
          Its always good to meet our readers in person and have conversations. Would look forward to our meeting :) 

        • Kopepasah

           @wpbeginner As I said before, I am glad that we are having this conversation.
           
          I encourage you to delete the affiliate link. If you had an edit comment feature, I would delete it myself. I do not make it a habit of putting personal affiliate links in comments, I was just making a point.
           
          I feel like we’ve got off topic a bit. My initial comment (and most of the comment following) had nothing to do with comparing BackupBuddy with VaultPress. The only point I am trying to make is that you misrepresented BackupBuddy (maybe not intentionally).
           
          In your post you state, “That was working fine, but the down side was we were only making one backup a day. This could be a problem if you have multiple authors simultaneously working on different posts every day.” Without any other clarification, this statement insinuates that BackupBuddy only allows one backup per day.
           
          When linking to the file for comparison, I was just trying to show the true features of BackupBuddy. Something you failed to do.
           
          Anyway, I truly do look forward to meeting you someday. I am sure we would have some great chats.

        • http://www.wpbeginner.com/ wpbeginner

           @Kopepasah Just made the clarification so users know that one can make multiple backups per day. 
           
          We did not show a feature list of ContactForm7, CformsII, Aweber, MailChimp etc. The goal of this article was to share the list of commercial plugin/services that we are using. Not comparing each plugin side by side with each feature.
           
          Maybe it was not your intention, but “In addition, there are many features that VaultPress does not offer. Here is a break down of the latest versions…[LINK]” and “There is no doubt that BackupBuddy offers many more features (at a better price) than VaultPress.” sounded like you were attempting to compare VaultPress to BackupBuddy. 
           
          I think if the user click on our BackupBuddy link in the article (which leads to the landing page, yes affiliate link) that clearly has a better features list. 
           
          Anyways, hopefully we can meet sometime and enjoy a drink or two while having good WordPress talks.

  • http://techtution.com/ techtution

    nice one.  specially i like Backup plugins

  • mrahmadawais

    Very nice post , was waiting for this one

  • http://davidjoragui.com/ David J Oragui

    Simply brilliant.
     
    Thanks for this – it’s definitely going to take my far in the future. I’m especially looking into Pippity – but only when I get my Aweber/Mail Chimp accounts set up (btw, does Mail Chimp and Aweber allow export/import lists with eachother?)
     
    OIO Publisher – if I decide to sell adspace on my site – but that depends on that kind of stuff they want to advertise I guess.
     
    Gravity Forms – Can’t wait to get this – though $200 for the developer license is steep on the pocket for new users… i.

    • http://www.wpbeginner.com Editorial Staff

      MailChimp / Aweber does allow export. But they have double-optin requirements. So you have to clear with them before you import a huge list.

      OIO Publisher – You can sell conventional banner ads, but more as well (ebooks, sponsored posts, text links inside posts, rss ads etc)

      Gravity Forms – Yeah that is a bit steep. Use one of our coupons to bring it down a little bit.