Below are various products and services that I use (or have used in the past) that I am happy to recommend to others. Each one has to meet my standards or I won’t recommend it. I’ve tried probably hundreds of products and services that I eventually rejected for one reason or another, so you won’t find those listed here. Many of the products I recommend are WordPress-related, but not all. I’ll add to and delete from this list occasionally as I see the need for changes. Of course, you can probably assume that any product link you find on my site may be an affiliate link. Just keep in mind that I won’t recommend a product just because it has an affiliate program, and you won’t pay anything extra for a product even if I do get a commission from the sale. In fact, sometimes, you’ll actually get a discount because of the special deals I can sometimes obtain as an affiliate of a product.
Must-Have WordPress Plugins
Site Management Tool
MainWP – If you manage multiple WordPress sites, you NEED MainWP. From one dashboard, you can manage every site’s plugins, themes, and core updates; install, activate, deactivate, and delete plugins and themes, manage users, content, and backups; run security checks; email client reports – and so much more. This plugin “saves my bacon” every day.
Elementor – I love Elementor! The free version is amazing enough, but the Pro version, which among other things, lets you use Elementor anywhere (headers, footer, sidebars), rather than simply within content, is well worth considering. In fact, it’s kind of a game-changer, especially when combined with themes, such as GeneratePress, that have hooks for each of these areas. Save Elementor layout templates, and use them when and where you need them.
Elementor makes creating beautiful pages with drag-and-drop ease and doesn’t leave a mess of shortcodes on your site, like so many page builders do. If people tell you to run from page builders, they mean run from those that lock you in with a tangled web of shortcodes (like Divi for example). Elementor does not lock you in, and does not leave you with a huge mess of shortcodes if you decide to no longer use it. It’s important to point this out, because with many page builders, if you stop using them, your content IS GONE. Not so with Elementor. Your content stays put. The styling won’t look the same, but it’s all there. That’s critical!!
(Disclosure: I used to work for Elementor so although that probably makes me sound biased, I actually starting recommending it long before I got hired by them.)
Astra – Astra is the fastest premium WordPress theme that also comes with beautiful WooCommerce features and lovely demo starter designs built in. Its Pro version has a great header builder as well. For anyone who doesn’t code, this is the theme to use!
GeneratePress – Easily the best theme for developers and those who want to use code to control every nook and cranny of the theme.
Useful WordPress Plugins
Cache - Speed Up Your Site
Cache Enabler – Want to speed up your site? Just install this free plugin and your site will immediately get faster.
WooCommerce – Easily the best, most popular ecommerce solution for WordPress. The free plugin will cover most needs, and special needs are covered by a myriad of optional 3rd-party addons.
Easy Digital Downloads – If you’re selling digital goods, instead of physical products, then EDD is definitely a great choice. Although Woocommerce can handle digital products, this isn’t its area of focus. Easy Digital Downloads, on the other hand, is designed from the ground up to handle digital download ecommerce. And like Woocommerce, the free plugin handles most situations, but there are addons for special needs.
I adore the form builder that comes with Elementor Pro. If you aren’t using Elementor Pro (and you should be), I’d go with the free granddaddy of WP form plugins, Contact Form 7. It’s not as pretty to design with, but it doesn’t invisibly break with half of the updates, like some of the other form builders do. A good, free companion plugin is Contact Form Submissions which automatically stores all entries in the database, so if you miss an email, you can still find the entry in your wp-admin area.
Backups and Site Migration
WP Time Capsule – The only backup plugin that backs up INCREMENTALLY. That’s a significant time-saver, and prevents so many of the problems other backup plugins have when they crash because of too many files or large files. Amazing peace of mind as it automatically backs up before every update to your plugins or themes. Want to use staging first? No problem, that’s built in. Coming soon…the ability to actually TEST your restore points. Also coming soon? The ability to rollback an update. Sweet!
Duplicator Pro – Migrate a site to a new host in minutes. Great for backups too, but Duplicator Pro is well known for making site moves a breeze.
UpdraftPlus – Excellent for a number of reasons. First, it’s solid and reliable. Second, there’s a very large choice of remote storage options, in both the free and premium versions. I like the premium version because I can store each site’s backup in Dropbox subfolders. In addition, the premium version comes with ALL of the addons, including future ones. So worth it! And because I like my tools to work well with one another, this one works seamlessly with MainWP that I mentioned at the top of this page.
Tutorials / Education
Lynda.com – The leader in learning. Lynda.com has been around for a long time, and it provides tutorials that can be counted on for quality.
Easy WP Guide – My favorite WordPress documentation. I make sure every client gets this.
WPBeginner’s WordPress 101 video tutorials – Good video tutorials for WordPress beginners. I tell all my clients about this as well.
Design / Development Help
Domain Names and Hosting
Namecheap – I’ve been using Namecheap to purchase all my domain names for years. I got tired of all the crazy upsells that “other” registrars used, and I’ve been happy I moved to Namecheap ever since. Solid and dependable, without any of the annoyances. However, do NOT use Namecheap for hosting. In fact, you should never have one company have complete control over both your domain name and your hosting. But even if you purchase your domain name elsewhere, I still wouldn’t recommend Namecheap as a hosting provider. Stick to simply purchasing domain names from them, and use someone else for hosting.
Cloudways – Cloudways boasts 24/7 human support, fast speeds, managed backups and managed security, and advanced caching, among many other modern attributes that makes this hosting company a smart choice. Choose from 6 cloud providers such as Digital Ocean, Vultr, and Google Cloud.
WPX Hosting– WPX Hosting is a fast, reliable solution that is perfect for most sites that need the next level up from shared hosting. I strongly recommend this hosting for the large majority of people.
Siteground – Siteground hits the sweet spot between shared hosting and VPS. It’s like shared hosting but with your sites being isolated from others. Siteground is the goto host that is the right fit for most small to medium sites.
Kinsta – Kinsta is the top tier of WordPress hosting. If you have a large site or get lots of traffic, you need Kinsta. It is the best of the best.