Are you a business owner? Is the year now almost 2017? Don’t answer those – they were rhetorical. Of course you are, that is why you are here. And with the same certainty that I knew that about you, I would also venture that you are one that is almost entirely responsible for growing your business online.
And unless you are one of the approximately 9,000 computer science majors that graduated in the United States last year (or anywhere for that matter), odds are you don’t know a whole lot about coding or web design.
But you’re here, and you’re trying. And that’s what matters.
That’s where WordPress plugins come in handy. You can transform your basic WordPress blog into a money making machine. And if you own a WordPress blog, as most of you do, you know you can install these in less than 2 minutes. If you’re struggling with how to make money blogging you need to start trying new things. Stop repeating the same mistakes over and over and over.
One thing to keep in mind is that these plugins don’t literally print money. Instead they often contribute something I like to call the “intangible effects” – better user experience, traffic growth, and increased conversion rates. They’re not seen by your users but you see their direct impact on your bottom line…and that means more $$$. And while blog monetization is far too large a topic for me to cover in depth here, these 10 WordPress blog plugins are absolute must-haves if you are looking to make money online through a blog.
Some of them you may have heard of and are already using…great. Others you may have had no idea existed. That’s okay too. That’s what we’re here for after all. Helping entrepreneurs expand their businesses; it’s what we do.
I suppose it is also worth mentioning that I have personally used and/or still use all of these plugins so I can attest to their functionality. After all, what’s the point of using a plugin if it continually breaks your website? Now don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly possible that you may be using a plugin that may be incompatible with any of the below plugins. Be smart. Have a backup handy in case things go south.
Let’s get started.
How to Make Money Blogging With WordPress
1) Google AdSense
Whether or not ads are appropriate for your site to begin with is an argument we could have all day. But no one can deny that AdSense provides an immediate return on the work that you’re putting into your blog. As with most things in life, there is likely an appropriate balance of ad usage that negates the all or nothing approach. You should seek to achieve a balance that 1) maximizes your return on time invested and 2) does not substantially detract from your user’s experience. The Google Adsense Plugin allows you to:
“…place AdSense ads using a simple point-and-click UI rather than manually inserting snippets yourself. Google automatically determines potential placements for AdSense ads, suggests an initial ad layout, and allows you to lay out ads on your site.”
The latest version allows you to:
- Easily add AdSense ads to your site to make money from advertising.
- With one click, enable mobile-specific ad layouts with Automated Mobile Ads.
- Manage your ads quickly and easily through a point-and-click interface.
- Manually insert ads in locations that you determine yourself.
- Exclude pages from having ads on them.
- Verify your site with Webmaster Tools with just one click.
If you’re not using Shareaholic on your site, you are seriously missing out. The plugin is primarily designed to be a social sharing expansion but it is so much more than that. It is a money making machine if you’re using it right. Mind you, I am not endorsed by Shareaholic in any way, I just really do like it that much. Some of the many benefits include:
1) You can turn on floating social sharing (like you see on the far left of this page).
Expanding your blogs reach, in part, is about making it easy to share. Don’t go all overkill and put sharing buttons everywhere, but a good balance of near the top, on the side, or near the bottom of all your pages/articles will do. You can’t monetize your blog if you don’t have people coming to it. If you’re paying attention you’ll see we also have the social sharing option enabled at the bottom of our articles as well (hint hint, share the love!).
2) There is a related posts feature.
This is likely far more important than you’re giving it credit for.
Because bounce rate.
Everything is about bounce rate. Your Google search rankings, your self-esteem, your dinner choice tonight, the number of page views per visit each visitor has…everything. The longer you keep people on your site, the more money you make. Plain and simple. If you can get your average pageviews/visit to increase from 1.17 to 1.59, you can expect to see a similar positive correlation in your earnings. It is really that important.
Plus, why install another plugin that accomplishes the same thing, (related posts) and ultimately weighs down your website’s agility (more on website speed later).
3) There are multiple ways to directly monetize your site.
a) You can enable ads amongst your related content at the bottom so that they don’t clutter the page and/or your side bar – how many ads you place is up to you and can be tailored towards your advertising goals.
b) You can enable ads on all your social sharing pages. If someone chooses to share a post, it will display a targeted banner ad similar to the content they’re already viewing. How’s that for reaching your target audience?
c) While I have this option disabled as we utilize our own affiliate links, Shareaholic has the ability to append normal links to products into affiliate links that generate sales for you. Pretty cool.
And like I said, these are only but a few benefits. As with most trusted plugins, if you don’t like it, you can deactivate and uninstall. You need to give this one a try.
Related: How To Make Money Blogging
3) WooCommerce and WooCommerce Subscriptions
If you’re new to blogging (or business in general) and made the fortuitous decision to install WordPress, then your future success as a major online retailer is not yet in jeopardy. Okay just kidding, it likely is, but prove me wrong. You can do just that by installing WooCommerce for free.
What is WooCommerce you ask? It is everything you ever needed to start an online shop packaged into one little click of a button. Really. From fully functional product description pages, to a shopping cart, to checkout and refund pages, you really can sell physical (or digital!) items online with essentially 0 coding knowledge…and that’s a really big deal. Welcome to 2017. Welcome to the Internet.
If you have a unique idea, service, or product that you can sell, you’re missing out by not having WooCommerce installed. Consider this: with over 7 million installs (as of September 2015) WooCommerce now powers over 30% of ALL retailer websites in the world. It’s trusted because it works (it is also developed by the same people that designed WordPress so that comes as no surprise).
And while the WooCommerce platform itself is open source and free to install, there are a number of paid enhancements that are well worth the money (it’s fully functional without any paid enhancements so don’t let that discourage you in any way).
One of my favorite add-ons is the WooCommerce Subscription Plugin.
We use the WooCommerce Subscription plugin over on VTX for our membership packages. The subscription package allows us to make certain content private and then sell it on a renewing basis to our members. If you’d like to have a membership product on your site with a renewing revenue stream, this is the easiest way to do it. It’s about $200/year but more than pays for itself if you’re generating revenue from it.
Social Sharing, Email List Growth and Search Engine Optimization
I considered putting this category first because while these plugins don’t lead to direct monetization of your blog, they are by far the most important when it comes to revenue growth. If you’re not constantly striving to expand your social reach, grow your email list, or optimize your website for search engine crawling, your priorities are seriously misaligned.
If your goal is to make blogging your primary income, then you need to think beyond your small niche of highly engaged customers (assuming you’ve made it that far)…you need to scale. The sad truth is the highest quality content in the world is still going to fall on deaf ears if you don’t have an audience that is willing to share it.
These plugins will help with that.
4) Yoast SEO
You need to think of Yoast SEO as a liason between you and Google – and on that same note you need to think of Google as the top prize. Let that sink in for a minute – Google is the top prize. Nearly every action you ever take should be with the search engine in mind. Why…cause traffic. Traffic is why. Search traffic is why. Purchase intent is why. It is sooo important I can’t stress it enough.
Yoast SEO is essentially a framework of things to keep in mind when choosing a blog topic and writing the ensuing article. By implementing good keyword usage/research (highly searched, long-tailed keywords with the least competition) and including all the ingredients of good meta data, you prime yourself for Google to take notice.
Now none of this will help if Google hates you to begin with (low domain authority, high spam score, poor backlink profile).
That said, if you’re constantly working on the parenthesized items and your scores start to improve, you allow Google to find your content easier by having excellent meta data- Google can learn what each page is about…and that’s a big deal. You start seeing targeted search traffic. You start seeing traffic with purchase intent…they found your website because they were actively looking for your product/information.
Be smart, help Google know how to index your page. Pinterest or Facebook may be your largest referrers now, but Google (or search engines in general) is the ultimate prize.
5) Social Warfare (or Shareaholic)
As I mentioned earlier, we use Shareaholic for our social sharing needs but another one I have used in the past and one that numerous large blogs use is Social Warfare. Social Warefare is awesome because it simply one-ups the other social sharing plugins out there. More features, more versatility, more ways to share your content. If someone can’t share your article within 1 second of searching for share buttons, they’re just going to give up.
Attention spans nowadays suck, so if your social sharing isn’t well placed or immediately available readers are just going to move on.
Don’t make that mistake.
A single share could expand your reach by thousands of readers (the average Facebook user has 338 friends…and that assumes you get 0 further organic reach). Furthermore social sharing increases the likelihood that you get backlinks to your site…and backlinks = more authority (we’ll talk more about the quality of backlinks later…not all backlinks are the same!).
Features of Social Warefare include:
- Support for every popular social networks.
- Display total and individual share counts.
- Display floating share buttons.
- Add “click to tweet” boxes within your content.
- Display popular posts widget organized by share counts.
- Upload Pinterest specific images and descriptions to your posts (great for boosting Pinterest traffic).
- Tracks social shares with UTM tracking code (see exactly how much traffic this plugin is sending your way).
- Fully mobile responsive.
6) MailChimp for WordPress
You need to be building an email list. Whether or not you use MailChimp, ConvertKit or aWeber (all quality plugins/services) is almost a moot point…you have all this targeted traffic (hopefully) that found its way to your website and you need to figure out ways to capitalize on it time and time again. If someone gives you their email they’re signaling to you that they are interested in what you have to say or what you’re offering. And those same people are wayyy more likely to be interested in similar things in the future.
Email lists are excellent for disseminating information, retargeting for similar products or merely keeping in touch with your audience.
All of these plugins have paid versions but MailChimp has a free version that will allow you to start building your email list right away. It’s also the largest and most supported of all email plugins (which comes in handy if you’re ever facing any issues/have questions about functionality).
Mailchimp allows you to design custom fields/forms for data entry, create separate email lists for certain audiences, and gives you analytics on how well your emails are performing.
Have I mentioned that email lists are important? Well let me stress it further by adding a second plugin to this list that is an absolute must have. For FREE, you can install SumoMe to your website and start testing numerous methods for collecting email address. If you’re struggling with how to make money blogging, I’d be willing to bet you place little or no emphasis on email marketing.
From a slim, interactive bar at the top of the page, to polite pop-ups as you scroll down the page, to minimized collection forms in page footers, SumoMe allows you to test which email method works best for you and your site. It’s by far the most versatile and user friendly method for collecting email addresses without burdening and/or annoying your readers.
Furthermore SumoMe integrates with all the major email services so we have our SumoMe and MailChimp lists fully merged (for our master list anyways).
Website Speed Directly Impacts Blog Monetization
Search engines have long placed an emphasis on user experience and website speed is huge factor in ranking algorithms. If your desktop or mobile speed scores are low, odds are Google (or any search engine for that matter) is penalizing you for providing a poor service. Ironically, installing numerous plugins on your WordPress website can negatively impact your speeds (plugins are resource intensive and just add to the number of things your user has to download when they access your page). While plugins add to the functionality of your website, having too many can be a huge burden on your load times.
You can check out how your website is scoring is here (protip: Google also suggests what you can do to speed up your page so you can get starting on fixing things right now):
Check Your Website Speed Scores with Google Page Insights
The awesome plugins below will help keep your website moving faster by compressing images, caching information for future visits and hosting resource intensive images on outside servers.
While you can think of JetPack as an all-in-one plugin (it’s like 16 plugins in 1), the most interesting one that relates directly to website speed is called Photon. JetPack uses a CDN (content delivery network) hosted by WordPress.com itself to display your images. This speeds up your website by not burdening your servers with the task of delivering large image files to the user. Instead they serve a saved image off the WordPress.com cloud that helps reduce your page load times.
Again, SEO rankings depend heavily on page load times so anything that could plausibly reduce them gets a thumbs up in my book.
Plus the plugin is designed by Automattic (the parent company of WordPress) so you can pretty much always count on it to be functional/not break your website each time a new update comes out. Other cool features include downtime monitoring (get an email if your site goes down), daily backups, increased social exposure, and brute force prevention.
9) WP Smush
So JetPack serves a cloud based image from a CDN, but why not speed up the process further by compressing unnecessarily large images that take a long time to load. WP Smush will crunch those file sizes down and serve a much cleaner, lighter version of media that you uploaded in your admin panel.
Better yet, WP Smush has a bulk cleaning tool that allows you to clean up dozens of pictures at a time. So if you’ve had your WordPress website up for a long time with thousands of images scattered about, don’t fret, just let WP Smush run in the background for a few hours and see just how much file space it cleans up!
10) WP Super Cache
Think of WP Super Cache of doing the same thing Smush does for images except for the web pages (HTML) themselves. The plugin allows you to serve static html to the vast majority of your users.
What benefit does that have? Try reduced bandwidth usage, server load, and perceived lag issues.
Don’t understand much of that? Don’t fret, you don’t really need to, just understand it’s a good thing. After all, that is the entire purpose of many of these plugins- to add functionality to our websites with code snippets that we would otherwise know nothing about it.
And while these last 3 plugins don’t “directly” impact blog monetization they all play a role in bring more users to your site. Users that share your content, get value out of what you have to offer, click on ads and buy products. They’re your customers, take care of them. Tell them they mean something to you by constantly striving to improve your website.
If you’re here reading this and know of other cool plugins that will help our readers with how to make money blogging, feel free to drop a comment below so we can check them out.