Let’s face it—WordPress rocks. From its humble beginnings as b2/cafelog to the CMS powerhouse it is known as today, WordPress has proven to be the choice of champions among designers, developers and pro bloggers alike. But what is it that truly makes WordPress stand apart from contending CMSs such as Drupal or Joomla?
It’s all about plugins.
The WordPress community is heavily driven by ambitious plugin developers who work day and night to extend its out-of-the-box functionality and provide users with robust features and advanced functionality. In fact, there are so many plugins available for the WordPress platform that whenever a client asks if a certain task can be performed, the answer is usually, “Yes, there’s a plugin for that.”
In the time-honored tradition of ‘top 10’ articles and ‘best of’ blog posts, I thought it would be appropriate to showcase some of the best premium (paid) WordPress plugins for 2012. Hopefully, you’ll be able to take away a few gems that will increase your site value and increase the value of WordPress related services you offer your clients—without breaking the bank!
Personally, my business wouldn’t be what it is today without Gravity Forms. From roofing companies to home theater specialists, Gravity Forms is by far the most valuable feature I offer my local business/website clients. Not only is it dreadfully easy to build web forms, and place them anywhere imaginable, Gravity Forms also acts as a CRM of sorts, organizing form entries into a list—giving administrators the ability to edit and add notes to individual submissions as well as a boat load of free add-ons, available for paid users. Pricing starts at $39 for a single site license and $199 for a developer’s license.
For those of you who are in the business of SEO and name WordPress as your CMS weapon of choice, SEOPressor takes free plugins like All in One SEO Pack to the next level. Developed by Daniel Tan, SEOPressor acts as an onboard internet marketing expert, analyzing your content and providing you with a checklist of on-page items to help you rank better in search engine results. Once installed, the plugin analyzes your heading tags (
h3), keyword density, placement, images, and links—providing you with tips and scores to improve your ranking position. Pricing starts at $47 for a single site license, and $97 for a multisite license.
White Label Branding
If you’re a designer or developer who builds WordPress-powered websites for your clients, then this plugin will ensure your installations look professional and completely customized. White Label Branding for WordPress gives you total control over the look and feel of your website’s backend—from placing your client’s logo on the sign-in screen to controlling the wp-admin color scheme, user roles, and capabilities. Though this plugin is more of an aesthetic solution, it’s definitely one that will separate you from your competitors. Pricing starts at $25 for a regular license, and $125 for an extended license.
There are plenty of people, like myself, who are comfortable with basic HTML, design and image editing, but would rather focus on the business and marketing side of things. Visual Composer for WordPress transforms your standard WordPress installation into a robust drag-and-drop visual editor, allowing you to create complex page layouts with tabs, columns, sliders, galleries, social plugins, call to action boxes, and more—all with a few clicks of the mouse. Sure, you can fork out $100–$300 for similar themes like PageLines or Headway, but for a fraction of the cost ($25 for a regular license) Visual Composer is a no-brainer.
WP Video Gallery
Now I’m not trying to say that WordPress doesn’t handle video well—because it does—but the demand for high quality video experiences is increasing. So naturally, expanding your site’s video playback capabilities is the next step. WP Video Gallery performs seamlessly from desktop to tablet to smartphone, allowing site owners the ability to feed videos from their hosting account, YouTube, Vimeo, s3 Amazon, and even plain old images and audio files. Cross-browser compatibility and custom skins ensures your videos always look and play in amazing quality. Pricing starts at $15 for a regular license and $75 for an extended license.
CSS3 Web Pricing Tables
5sec Google Maps
Have you ever tried to input Google Maps code into the HTML view of your WordPress post editor, only to realize that when you switched back to the visual editor view and saved, the map was gone? Well the 5sec Google Maps plugin is the perfect solution for this problem. With 12 predefined markers, customizable bubble descriptions, and the ability to have multiple maps on a single page/post, this plugin not only gives you the ability to enhance the appearance of your maps, but it’s also super easy to implement—just pop in a shortcode and you’re off to the races! Pricing starts at $8 for a regular license, and $40 for an extended license.
WordPress Newsletter Plugin
Imagine being able to offer your clients a comprehensive, lightweight email marketing system, built directly into their WordPress installation. How much value do you think this would add to their business? The WordPress Newsletter Plugin packs a lot of punch for a plugin. It allows you to gather unlimited subscribers within multiple mailing lists alongside built-in newsletter templates, custom opt-in fields, and the option to offer paid subscriptions. And because it’s built into WordPress, you can charge clients for the service and keep the profits for yourself. Pricing starts at $54.99 for a single domain, and $274.95 for unlimited sites.
A/B Theme Testing Plugin
It’s true, internet marketing is getting tougher. A successful site is no longer determined by the amount of hits it receives, but rather the amount of conversions it produces. For those of you who are new to split testing (also known as A/B testing) this plugin is a great way to get your feet wet. The put it simply, the A/B Theme Testing Plugin allows you to upload two or more similar theme layouts and split the traffic evenly between them. Combined with Google Analytics, you can see which theme converts better, and maximize your marketing efforts. It costs $9.95, plus $3 per month for support and upgrades.
Saving the best for last? Sort of :) Pinterest is ramping up to be the next social networking phenomenon, and what better way to leverage its traffic than to have it fully integrated into your WordPress installation? Pinterest Pro for WordPress supports shortcodes and template tags for all available “pin” and “follow” buttons as well as a tinyMCE toolbar plugin and sidebar widgets to display boards on your site. With claims that Pinterest drives more referral traffic than LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube combined, the possibilities are truly endless. Pricing starts at $5 for a regular license, and $25 for an extended license.
So there you have it!
Sure, there are tons of free WordPress plugins that enable you to do amazing things with your website—but in my experience, going premium usually means better support, frequent updates, and a community of users that are glad to lend a hand!
Are there any other premium WordPress plugins you feel should have made the list? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments below.
By day, Elijah is an Internet Marketer and Community Manager at Climax Media, a Toronto-based web agency. By night, he's a musician, blogger and serial entrepreneur, polluting the web with overzealous thoughts of money, fame and pizza.