Essential WordPress Plugins

I have been working in WordPress as my primary platform for the last 3 or 4 years. I’ve tried out probably hundreds of plugins, but there are some that I go to over and over for various needs of my clients’ sites and my own. Here’s a list of my most-used Essential WordPress Plugins. Most have free Versions with an Option to upgrade to a more professional Version with enhanced Features. Often the Free Version is sufficient to use on personal or small Websites.

Activity Log

WordpressActivity log Plugin

When you are responsible for updates to a client’s website and they also have access to do updates, it can be a lifesaver to have a log of what was done on the website and by whom. This plugin adds a menu item in your WordPress control panel. Just click on the Activity Log tab and you have instant access to logins along with a description of what was done. Data includes IP address and login username. Interestingly, it also records all attempted logins so you can quickly see how many times hackers have tried to gain access, along with what username they tried to use (hint: never use admin or administrator as a username). You can also set up email notifications if you want to be informed of certain actions on your website. You can’t beat that the plugin is free, well supported, updated often, and doesn’t slow down your website. Just install it, activate it, and you’re good to go!


AkismetIf you have comments enabled, it quickly becomes pretty impossible to live your life without Akismet. In fact, WordPress includes it automatically with your WordPress installation, ready for you to activate it. Akismet keeps tabs on all comments and does an exceptional job of weeding out spam comments from legitimate ones. You can choose to let the plugin delete the most obvious spam comments without any further interaction, or to leave them in a spam box for you to review before deleting or approving them. I’ve had some websites with blogs that receive thousands of spam comments a day. It would be humanly impossible to keep up with all of them, so I highly recommend this plugin. You’ll need to sign up with an account and obtain an API key to use it, but it’s worth the effort. If your site is a personal one, it’s free (contributions are encouraged). Or if you are running a business website, you can pay for the features you want on their website – pricing ranges from $5/month for a single site up to $50/month for unlimited sites.


WordPress Backup BuddyBackupBuddy is a plugin available from The price ranges from $80/year for two websites up to $297 for a one-time fee for unlimited websites, with varying price ranges in-between. There’s a lot I can say about this plugin. It makes it easy to migrate your WordPress website from one server to another and helps with changing all the links if you’re changing your URL. You can do one-time backups as needed, but you can also schedule regular backups of either your database, or your database and all files. BackupBuddy zips your backups and allows you to store the backups either on your server or on cloud services you subscribe to like Amazon Web Services, Google Drive, or Dropbox. They also provide storage if you need it through their BackupBuddy Stash service. You get 1GB of Stash storage for free, and you can pay for additional space. BackupBuddy also has a few other added benefits like email notifications, individual file restore, server tools that tell you what your hosting configuration settings are, malware scan, database mass text replacement, and database scan and repair.

Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder Review

Beaver Builder has become my favorite page builder plugin, and believe me I’ve tried many of them including WPBakery’s Visual Composer, Divi Page Builder from Elegant Themes, and Cornerstone from Themeco. Each one of these builders has positives and negatives and I won’t get too in the weeds about this – someday I’ll do a review comparing all of them. But Beaver Builder has the most intuitive interface IMHO and with one price (I got the $199 Pro version which includes the Beaver Builder theme) you have the rights to use it on as many installations as you want with 1 year of support included. There’s a very large, friendly usergroup where you can get help if you get stuck. It comes with lots of Beaver Builder Layouts to get you up and running quickly; with just a click you have a fully populated page you can begin to customize. If you have a client who wants to update their own content after you build their site, Beaver Builder will probably be the most easy for them to understand and use. When a colleague suggested Beaver Builder, I laughed because the name sounds kind of kid-like or unprofessional, but this is a serious, powerful WordPress page builder – seriously! Check it out, then come back and thank me. No, this is not a paid endorsement. I get nothing from Beaver Builder by saying how great they are.


CSSHeroCSSHero adds a small control panel to pages while you’re logged in to your WordPress site. It allows you to select elements on your page and modify any of the element’s corresponding CSS attributes without knowing CSS code. It makes the changes for you and saves them so your changes are live on the site. When I first made the transition from building in Dreamweaver, it was confusing to me knowing which selector controlled which CSS properties. CSSHero was helpful, not only in getting the job done, but in teaching me how to do it myself. I don’t use CSSHero very often now, but there are still occasions when I’m stuck on something, when I’ll install it and it helps me quickly customize an element I need help with. One issue with CSSHero I was disappointed with is that it works only with select themes (many of which I use), and also if you’ve created customized areas within your site, it won’t let you edit those with their tool. Pricing ranges from $29/year for one site up to $199/year for up to 999 sites.

Duplicate Post

Duplicate Post WordPress PluginDuplicate Post is a simple, free plugin that does one thing well. It makes it easy for you to duplicate pages and posts. Just install it, activate it, and suddenly you have a new option [CLONE] when you hover over your page or post title listings. Click it and you’ll have a duplicate page in your page listings with the same title but in draft mode. Just change the title, change the slug, and start making the changes you need. It’s a convenient way to create a new page when the layout is the same or similar as another, saving you the hassle of starting from scratch on a new page.

Google Analytics by Monster Insights

Monster Insights Google AnalyticsFormerly Google Analytics by Yoast, Monster Insights Google Analytics plugin allows you to quickly and easily add your Google tracking code to your website. Just install and activate the plugin, link it with your Google Analytics account with their step-by-step easy interface, and you’re all set to begin tracking the visitor information that’s important to you. You can see the most important visitor stats right in your WordPress control panel. And isn’t their logo cute? I wanna take little MI home with me and keep him around for all the times I need more insights!

Gravity Forms

Gravity FormsIf I’m working on a website that needs anything beyond the standard contact form, I use Gravity Forms. With Gravity Forms, I can quickly configure complex forms with multiple types of data collection. It has numerous add-ons that allow you to use it with MailChimp, AWebber, iContact, Dropbox, etc. It allows you to easily build polls and quizzes. It lets you create order forms that tie in with several different payment gateways – I’ve used it to receive payments through and PayPal. It lets you use coupon codes with ease. There are some really cool features like letting site visitors fill out a signature with their mouse or iPad to authorize the form. It’s also very easy to create multi-page forms with Gravity Forms. Some of the add-ons are only available by purchasing the developer license, which is $199, but it’s well worth the price. Even if you just need a basic form processor with no crazy features, paying $39/year for their personal license is well worth it. I’ve needed to get support a few times and their support team was quick to answer and provide the solutions I needed.

NextGEN Gallery Plus by Imagely

NextGEN Gallery ReviewI’ve bought the NextGEN Plus plugin by Imagely and have used it on quite a few websites for clients who need to show off their photos. NextGEN has a huge array of layout choices including mosaic, masonry, filmstrip, thumbnail galleries, and slideshows. It’s easy to get the look you want by adjusting settings and all the layouts work beautifully with responsive design. Some of the features include bulk image uploading, image resizing, custom thumbnails, watermarking, and even proofing galleries and the ability to sell photos and digital downloads through Stripe and PayPal. They have lots of demos to look through to find the layout you’re looking for and they’ve provided quick support when I’ve needed help. NextGEN Plus is $49/year for use on as many websites as you want.

Popup Maker by Daniel Iser

Popup MakerSeveral of my clients have requested content to be shown in popups, and this plugin does everything I’ve needed it to do and more. There’s a WYSIWYG content editor that allows you to embed shortcodes and optin forms easily, with integration with MailChimp, Constant Contact and many more. You can even use it with Gravity Forms, Ninja Forms, and Contact Form 7. You can target certain pages of your site or the whole site. They have a theme builder that makes it easy for you to customize the look of the popups to get exactly the look you need. Popups can open on click or automatically by timer and you have control over the position and size of your popups, as well as animation.

Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin

Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin

When you move your site from one domain name to another or change page names, it’s essential to set up 301 redirects so you don’t confuse visitors who click on old links. Also, your webpage accumulates “SEO juice” that you don’t want to lose by changing a page’s location. 301 redirects allow you to make the changes you need to in your site structure without hurting your site’s ranking. This plugin makes it easy to set up these redirects, and it’s free!

Slider Revolution

Slider RevolutionEVERY client still wants sliders on their home page (I know – let’s not even go there). Admittedly, they are pretty. When I need a slider, I use Slider Revolution. It can be a little daunting to learn because there are so many options, but they do provide lots of ready to use themes you can customize. Their latest feature is the Whiteboard add-on – you know, the hand that holds a pen that animates your message. I’m kind of anxious to try that but haven’t had a client request the feature yet. Slider Revolution is $19 per website and includes one year of updates and support for that price.

Smooth Scroll Up

Smooth Scroll UpSmooth Scroll Up does one thing well. When you’re building a website whose theme doesn’t include the little arrow at the bottom of the screen that allows the visitor to jump back up to the top of the page, this plugin lets you quickly and easily add one. You can adjust the position, use a custom image if you want, enable or disable on certain pages, use different animations, and use your own custom css. It works equally well on desktop, tablets and smart phones. Seriously, why strand your site visitors at the bottom of your page?

WPBakery Visual Composer

Visual ComposerThis is the momma of all page builders, at least as far as I know. It’s the first one I used a few years ago when transitioning from Dreamweaver built sites to WordPress. It has a ton of features and is pretty easy to use. It works with just about any theme or your own custom built theme. There isn’t much that it can’t do. My biggest drawback is that it’s $34 per website per year. When you build tons of websites each year, it gets pricy. I usually only use it now when it comes with a theme I’m working with. I love working with Visual Composer – I just think it’s overpriced.

WP Google Maps Pro

WP Google MapsWhen I need to add a map to a WordPress website, this is my first choice. I’ve tried multiple map plugins, including the ones that come with many different themes and most of the time I switch to using this one even when the theme includes one because WP Google Maps just works better and lets you add multiple locations easily. There’s a free version for people with basic needs, but there are a lot of other great features with the Pro version, such as custom markers, a directions popdown window, and a cool store locator feature. I’ve used it for a church that wanted to list over a dozen home groups so members could easily find which home group was near them. It allowed me to create a user selected filter so the visitor could easily find home groups with child care or home groups for women only, etc. It lets visitors share their location so they can find the location nearest to them. The Pro version is only $39 for use on up to 3 sites and that’s all you’ll pay forever. How can you beat that? Well, I beat it by getting the developer bundle. I paid $99 and I can use it everywhere I want to forever. Don’t be jealous.


WP-OptimizeI develop my sites online on a development server. By the time I’m ready to take the site live, often there are dozens or even hundreds of revisions to a site’s pages. WordPress keeps all those revisions in its database so you can roll back your page to any date and time you want. That’s a cool thing to have while you’re developing but not so cool once your website is done and you’re ready to wipe the slate clean. WordPress doesn’t provide an automatic way to clear out your revision history, but this free plugin gives you an easy way to do it, making your database lighter and avoiding problems. It also lets you get rid of unapproved and spam comments, and lets you keep data for a time period you specify, like if you want to get rid of all but the last one or two weeks. The plugin author warns you to use it with caution, and I do, but I’ve never had it delete anything I wasn’t happy to wave goodbye to. It does the job well and with ease.

WP Super Cache

WP Super CacheWordPress websites have a lot of working parts. If the server is required to build your website from all the PHP processes each time the visitor visits your website, you’re going to have a slow website and you’ll risk losing search engine ranking. Caching plugins create temporary HTML files that get served to site visitors so the server doesn’t have to work so hard. WP Super Cache is one of many caching plugins but in my opinion, this one works the best and is the easiest to use. The settings don’t require an engineering degree to figure out. I host my clients’ websites on GoDaddy’s managed WordPress hosting and they include caching as part of their package. In fact, I can’t even install caching plugins on these sites because GoDaddy won’t allow it – it causes problems if you try to run more than one caching solution simultaneously. But for websites I manage for clients who host their sites on other platforms, I install WP Super Cache.

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEOYoast SEO is a free, great tool for taking care of some of the basic SEO needed for typical websites. It works like a wizard to let you know on each page how to improve your page’s score, giving you a green light, yellow light, or red light based on a number of different elements you should optimize for improvements. It’s giving you an education in SEO while it’s helping you do your job, which is great for people learning how to optimize their web sites for search engine placement. The plugin works on a page by page basis, and also there are settings that are important on a whole website basis, like getting your site linked to Google webmaster tools, Bing, creating XML sitemaps for you to submit so your site gets crawled properly, making sure your robots.txt and .htaccess files are set up correctly, taking care of your permalinks, post titles, and meta descriptions. It’s a valuable tool that I wouldn’t want to forget to install and properly configure for my clients. There’s a paid version for people who want more advanced help for only $69 per website per year.

WordPress Themes for Artist Websites

With WordPress, and Themes for Artist Websites, the only subjective opinion that matters is the experience of the person that you are trying to reach. In addition to that, technology has provided new and innovative tools for creators. For example, photo editing and graphic design can blend the traditional talent and vision, with modern processing power and technology. The result is an impressive rendition that can impress even the most cynical of critics. Spheres of art such as tattoo design and body paint have also gained wider social acceptance. We often see modernity as the golden age of enlightenment, but we forget to mention that it is also the golden age of art.

Free Themes

WPFolio – is simple, sleek, and easy to use. This theme comes closest to ‘traditional’ artist websites.
This theme hasn’t been updated in over 2 years. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.
artist wordpress theme wpfolio

Optics is a free WordPress portfolio theme for creating a fully-integrated blog, portfolio, and e-commerce store.
optics free wordpress theme
Fullscreen – A non-traditional site great for artists who want to make a big impact with their work right off of the bat. Here’s a rendition that I did, using Leonardo DaVinci’s work. View the Demo Here
fullscreen wordpress theme
Tempera is a free WordPress theme with over 200 settings, a light user interface, responsive layout, carefully crafted typography, socials and much more. View the Demo here
tempera free wordpress theme
Weaver Xtreme is the original, and still the best, fully customizable WordPress theme. Weaver Xtreme Version 3.1 is the latest version of the theme. Weaver Xtreme’s advanced design is based on over six years of experience with previous Weaver themes and the input of thousands of users.
weaver free wordpress theme

Reducing WordPress Invalid Login Attempts

A user with IP address has been locked out from signing in or using the password recovery form for the following reason: Used an invalid username 'administrator' to try to sign in.If your Website is build on the WordPress CMS Platform (as it is one of the most popular CMS’s available) and have Wordfence installed you might have noticed unsuccessful Login Attempts with strange or non existent usernames.

A user with IP address has been locked out from signing in or using the password recovery form for the following reason: Used an invalid username ‘administrator’ to try to sign in.

Most likely these are ‘Bots trying their luck getting into your admin area.
Here is a simple yet very effective way to minimize their chances of every getting your Username and Password right by simply renaming your’wp-login’ file.

1) rename wp-login.php to ‘xxxxxxx.php’ (where xxxxxxx is some text string you pick)
2) Edit the file (use a TEXT editor) and change all occurrences of the string ‘wp-login.php’ to the new name. You must do this or logins will fail!
Depending on the WordPress Version you are using this string will occur a few times in your wp-login file. In my particular instance (using latest WP Version it occurs at lines 332,476,499,536,592,594,627,695,706,723,824 and 9000(use the find and replace feature of notepad or notepad++)
3) add a line in your .htaccess file
HTML Code:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/wp-login\.php$
4) create a file ‘badbot-403.html with the following
HTML Code:

<html xmlns="">
    <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="8;url=" />

the reason for this is the ‘8’ it delays 8 seconds before transfering to the next page – delaying a bot a little (every little bit helps) but not messing it up for any of my users that forget and use the wrong login file name
5) create another file ‘badbot-warn.html’ with
HTML Code:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "">
<html xmlns="" dir="ltr" lang="en-US">
<title>Please stop hacking</title>
<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<div style="text-align: center;">
<span style="color: #000000; font-size: 24px;">Invalid Login Attempt
<br /><br /><br /><br />
<div style="text-align: center;">
<span style="color: #ff0000; font-size: 34px;">Your computer has attempted to login to this site.<br />Please stop hacking.</span></div>

Now you have to use the name of what you changed wp-login.php to – for example:
If you changed ‘wp-login.php’ to ‘ha-try-and-find-this.php’ you would use ‘’ – you can not use ‘your’ because that calls wp-login.php and off to the warning you go.

All this won’t stop hacking attempts but it will slow them down a bit. A Live Example can be tested here.
If you do not have the time or technical expertise and want to hire me, I’m happy to help. See my portfolio and contact me today!

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Get a Bitcoin Wallet

Popular bitcoin wallets

Once you have decided to start using Bitcoins, you need to get a unique bitcoin address or wallet to store your bitcoins. Your bitcoin wallet address is similar to an email address, people will send bitcoin to your bitcoin wallet address. You can share or publish your bitcoin address so that people can send you money at that address.

Choose to download the software and keep your wallet on your computer, mobile device, or use an online wallet, or all of the above!

Bitcoin wallets for your mobile phone:

Mobile wallets allow you to bring Bitcoin with you in your pocket. You can exchange bitcoins easily and pay in physical stores by scanning a QR code or using NFC “tap to pay”.

airbitzwalletAirbitz – Airbitz is a mobile Bitcoin Wallet making high levels of privacy, security, and decentralization very familiar and usable to the masses. Airbitz wallets are always automatically encrypted, backed up, and even function when Airbitz servers go down.


myceliumMycelium – Mycelium Bitcoin Wallet is an open source wallet for Android designed for security, speed, and ease of use. It has unique features to manage your keys and for cold storage that help you secure your bitcoins.


greenaddressGreenAddress – Green Address is a user-friendly multi-signature wallet with improved security and privacy. At no time are your keys server side, even encrypted. For security reasons, you should always use 2FA and the browser extension or Android App.


bitcoin walletBitcoin wallet – Bitcoin Wallet for Android is easy to use and reliable, while also being secure and fast. Its vision is de-centralization and zero trust: No central service is needed for Bitcoin-related operations. The app is a good choice for non-technical people.

Online or Web based bitcoin wallets:

Online wallets are not stored on your computer at all, and so can be accessed from anywhere you are able to access the web.  With an online wallet you have to take great care not to lose your password and to use a company that you can trust to keep your wallet and coins safe. The following online wallet providers do not hold the private keys for your wallet, and so even if they are hacked or go down, your bitcoin is safe.

greenaddressGreen Address – GreenAddress is a user-friendly multi-signature wallet with improved security and privacy. At no time your keys are server side, not even encrypted. For security reasons, you should always use 2FA and the browser extension or Android App.


bitgoBitgo – BitGo is a multi-signature wallet offering the highest levels of security. Every transaction requires two signatures, protecting your bitcoins from malware and server attacks. Private keys are held by the user such that BitGo cannot access the bitcoins. It is a good choice for non technical users. – is a user-friendly hybrid wallet. It stores an encrypted version of your wallet online but decryption happens in your browser. For security reasons, you should always use the browser extension and email backups.


The following online wallets are very secure.Coinbase is my personal favorite one You get a $1 Bitcoin and if you refer Friends they reward you as well

Using digital currency is more fun with friends! You can invite your friends by sharing the provided link. Once your friend buys or sells $100 (€86) of digital currency or more, you will both get $10 (€8) of free bitcoin.

coinbaseCoinbase – Coinbase is a web wallet service that aims to be easy to use. It also provides an Android web wallet app, merchant tools and integration with US bank accounts to buy and sell bitcoins. If you sign up using the following link, you will get $1 free bitcoin in your coinbase account!

Features your Website SHOULD have

Page Speed / Loading Time

A slow-loading website and slow-loading pages are some of the greatest detractors to your site and will harm your conversion rate before you even start. Visitors don’t have time to hang around waiting for your website to load. The simplest thing for them to do is click the back button and go to your nearest competitor’s site even if they are below you in search rankings. By minimizing your load time by just a second can increase your conversions, boost your reputation and increase your page ranking.

Website Design / Call to Actions

The next thing that grabs the attention of the visitor is the layout and web design. If your website does not look professional, has pop-ups all over the place or seems to be somewhat complicated to navigate, it will deter even the most loyal customers. When visitors visit your website they expect it to be:

  • Organized – Provides users with a quick and clear understanding of what the site is about. It should display all of your most important selling points and it should guide the users with easy to see calls to action. Remember, direct visitors where YOU want them to go.
  • Easy to navigate – A navigable website is the essence of creating a well-organized and user-friendly website. Your website should allow visitors to explore further, while still being able to find their way back to where they started. An easy-to-navigate website will keep your visitors there longer and increase the chance for conversion.
  • Offer value – If your users come to your site for your product or service. Deliver. Craft your website around those products and services and present them in a way that the user knows exactly what you are offering. Most times visitors search for specific topics and keywords, so if you have specific topics make sure the relevant information is there.

Self-shot images

The use of stock images on websites, gives it a somewhat more ‘professional’ look, but that is not a true reflection of YOU or YOUR business. When visitors land on your website, they want to see the people behind the brand. By revealing yourself and your business you build rapport that will result in lasting relationships. Another significant aspect of self-managed photography is that it shows willingness to go the extra mile, which to a potential customer is GOLD!

Images over content

It is sometimes hard to find the balance between content and images. But it has been proven that people prefer image-heavy websites over content-heavy websites. It is not always possible when you have intricate products or services, BUT, the use of diagrams and info graphics can be beneficial. These image heavy tools convey complex products in simple ways offering enough space and area for text.We are not saying ditch content completely, because at the end of the day content is key when it comes to website ranking and for those Google bots to pick out keywords. The key is to find the balance.


Visitors expect a guided user-friendly experience, while still being in control of their experience. This means, creating a website that does not force users to go to certain pages, does not have pop-ups, auto-play videos or links that activate when hovered over.Directing and redirecting your visitor to various pages, does not expose them to more of your brand or tell them more about your business. It actually causes visitors to leave, because they come looking for specific information, and ONLY if you have their attention will they navigate further.Visitors seldom mind advertising and videos on your websites, if they are not placed in the middle of your page where your important content is. Somewhere toward the side is usually the ideal place, because there it will be caught in the visitor’s peripheral vision and he/she will have the option to click and view.

Still not sure how to structure your website? Contact us to find out more about how we can help get your website up and running.

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Web Design Checklist

Use this website design checklist as guide to gather the items needed to have your web site designed. This list is a great starting point of recommended items that will help you put your best foot forward with your web design project.

Your Company Info

  • Company profile or history
  • Company stationery/business card
  • Profiles of your employees and management
  • Your company’s mission statement, goals, etc.
  • Recent press releases
  • Articles written about your company
  • Portfolio of work/projects
  • Client testimonials
  • Contact information
  • Hiring information
  • Employee/Management Bios

Marketing Information

  • Your target audience
  • Descriptions of your ideal customer
  • Best selling products or services
  • What makes your offering different or appealing
  • What are the hot buttons for your product or service
  • What is the problem you are solving for your customers
  • How much time or effort does your product save customers
  • How does your product stack up next to the competition
  • What are the strengths of your products or services
  • What are the possible weaknesses in your product or service offering
  • Where is the opportunity for you, in your niche market

Your Products and Services

  • Descriptions of services offered
  • Descriptions of products to be sold via web site
  • Pricing sheet
  • Specials
  • Product catalogs
  • Special events
  • Samples of existing marketing materials
  • Spreadsheets with product info


  • Company Logo (original graphic files are the best to get)
  • Photos relating to your industry
  • Photos of your business
  • Photos of your employees/management
  • Images of your products
  • Photos relating to your services

Web Site Addresses

  • Top competitors’ web addresses
  • Any websites that you like (jot down what you liked about each address)
  • Any websites that you dislike (and why)
  • Current website


With these items collected, you are in a great position to take this to a knowledgeable web development company who will use all this information to craft a website that will position your company in the best possible light.

You will want to spend the time to actually find a company with a strong Marketing background, who knows how to take all this information and communicate it in a compelling, interesting and direct fashion.  Believe it or not, this is above and beyond what can be expected by most web designers, who will simply regurgitate your information.

The objective with website development is to weave a compelling story about your company and its products and service which will be compelling enough to get people to inquire, thereby generating leads and sales for your organization.  This is our objective with every website we build.