Best WordPress Contact Form Plugins

So, you need a form on your website. That’s not surprising – everybody needs a contact form (or is that a Thneed?) Anyway, forms have so many uses that it’s a lot like a digital Thneed. Contact forms, client feedback surveys, event registration, email signups… and the list goes on!

No matter what your WordPress form needs, there is a plugin for that. Here are some of my favorite Form Plugins for WordPress


Jetpack’s Contact Form

If what you need is a simple to set up, lightweight email form and you’re already using the popular JetPack plugin by Automattic, then the Contact Form module is perfect for you. JetPack is a plugin that packages up a huge amount of services from and allows you to use them for your self-hosted WordPress website. Jetpack is huge, so if all you’re looking for is a simple form, you might want to jump down to the section on Contact Form 7.


Contact Form 7

As the leading contact form plugin for many years, Contact Form 7 is the go-to contact form for a huge number of WordPress website owners. It a well-established plugin and maintained consistently. New users have told me that they find it a little clunky in the setup, but once you get it figured out you shouldn’t have any problems.


Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is a premium plugin that currently costs around $79 a year. I put off buying Gravity Forms for waaaaay too long. I was trying to justify the cost, but if you have a need for anything beyond a simple contact form then it’s justification enough to buy this plugin. Gravity forms allows you to create multiple forms and tracks submission through each form in addition to emailing you the form entries. You can connect a payment Gateway and use it to sell things. You can add the submitters automatically to your email list. You can conduct polls and surveys. The options with Gravity forms are endless (or at least more numerous than you are likely to need). The biggest benefit over the other forms plugins is that Gravity Forms keeps an submitted information in a database that can be exported to Excel. There is no chance of emailed submissions getting lost en route or in your mailbox.

My favorite of these three is Gravity Forms, no contest. Which solution is right for you? Let me know in the comments.

Theme Test Drive Plugin Review

Update: This Plugin is no longer in the the repository. It has been replaced with WP Theme Test. I have not reviewed the new plugin yet.

It’s a common dilemma. You’re tired of your old WordPress theme and you want to try out a new one. But your website is live. You can’t just go making a mess out of your website, playing around with a new theme when visitors are coming. That’s like hosting a dinner party in the middle of a kitchen remodel. It just isn’t done.Tweet this!

Enter a handy little plugin called Theme Test Drive.

I had this exact dilemma when I needed to do a refresh on one of my websites that had been sadly neglected in favor of more lucrative sites. It had a sudden rise in popularity and when it reached seven thousand visitors a month, the website shame just got to be too much. I HAD to update the site. But with that much traffic, I didn’t want to take it offline or try to do a live update where it would look like a mess when people landed on it.

I had been using the My Product theme from Elegant themes and I wanted to switch over to Headway Themes, which would take me a day or so to customize. The Theme Test Drive plugin activates the secondary theme (In my case Headway) so that the admin user (meaning me) can customize and view the theme. But all of the other visitors will continue to see the old theme. Brilliant!

Activating the Theme Test Drive Plugin

Once you install the plugin and the new theme you want to customize. Head over to Appearance>Theme Test Drive.

Theme Test Drive WordPress Plugin Review.

Choose the new theme from the drop down list and click Enable Theme Drive. Now you can see the new theme but anyone who is not an admin is still seeing the old one.

You can leave your website this way for days, even weeks if you want. I did run some site speed tests to make sure it wasn’t causing any significant load on my site. At the most, it may have added half a second to my load time – it went from about 2 seconds to about 2.5 or so. I feel like that is a very acceptable temporary price to pay for the value the plugin provides.

Switching Themes Permanently

Once you have the new theme looking good, it’s time to push it live! For this, the plugin takes advantage of a native WordPress theme feature. Once you set up a theme, the settings will stick even when the theme is deactivated. That means you can turn the theme off and when you turn it back on all of your customizations will be in place. (OK – it doesn’t always work perfectly, but with most well-coded themes you’re golden.)

Head back to Appearance>Theme Test Drive and click the Disable Theme Drive button. Then go to Appearance Themes and activate the new theme. That’s it! Your website will start showing your new theme.

The next time you want to do a theme change on your live site, give the Theme Test Drive plugin, well… a test drive!


Facebook Ads or SEO for driving traffic to your website: Which should you use?

I recently saw a free webinar for Facebook Ads that claimed “The SHOCKING truth about SEO (Hint: It’s a waste of time!)”. “WHAT???” Was my first reaction. Being that I teach SEO and have had landed huge clients from across the continent using it, I thought that was a pretty bold statement. But then I started thinking…

Facebook Ads or SEO? Which one is a better source of website traffic? Could Facebook Ads really be the more effective way to bring your ideal customer to your website? Have I been wrong all of these years? (See – I’m very introspective like that. ;-))

The Cold, Hard Truth

Let’s say you’re in your kitchen and you decide to have a little snacky. You just happen to have a beautiful green Granny Smith Apple on the counter. You decide to slice it up for easier consumption. Do you run to the garage and grab the long wooden handled axe? No, you reach in the drawer and grab a nice knife, or even that cool apple slicer that looks like a wagon wheel with handles.

WHY don’t you use the axe? It’s got a sharp blade. It’s a cutting implement? Why not? (Please don’t try this at home – seriously.)

Because it’s the wrong tool for the job.

A long wooden handled axe is just as likely to smash your apple to smithereens while it cuts. And you might lose an appendage in the process.

It’s kind of like that when you’re looking at SEO vs Facebook ads.

Before I get into when you should use each one, take a look at this comparison chart so that you can understand how both SEO and Facebook Ads work:


Facebook Ads

What is it? Helps your website rank higher in search engine results. Puts an advertisement in front of a specific audience on Facebook
How much does it cost? Free if you do it yourself. Between $200 – thousands a month for a professional Free to create, $100 per ad for a professional. Then you pay per impression or per click. Completely unpredictable, but most small businesses spend between $25 – $300 a day.
Who sees it? People who perform a search for information on the specific topics you address on your website. Can be a different topic (keyword) for every page of your website. People who are using Facebook and belong to the audience you specify in your ad.
How much control do you have over the content? It usually appears how you specify, but you can’t always control exactly how your links will display and what copy appears. You control exactly what image and text appears, as long as you stay within the written guidelines.
How do you measure your return on investment? Connect the free Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools services to see how you are appearing in searches and what the click-through rate is. (Can require code setup.) Use your Facebook Ad manager to see how often you appear in the newsfeed and how many click or conversions you are getting. (Can require code setup for conversion pixels.)
What type of traffic does it drive? People who are actively looking for information or products/services relating to the topic they searched. People who are surfing Facebook and have an impulse to click on your ad.
Timeframes SEO works for you 24/7. If you stop doing it, the SEO you did previously continues to work. Facebook ads run at a specified time frame. When you stop the ad, the traffic stops.


Now that you get how each of them work, let’s look at how they drive traffic differently.

The difference between SEO and Facebook Ads? It comes down to the type of traffic.

SEO gets your website in front of people who are actively searching for information on your topic or for products and services you are selling. This means that 24/7, you’re putting yourself right smack in front of someone who is thinking of buying or who is ready to buy what you’re offering. These are the warmest kinds of leads and often the easiest to sell. Some of my highest paying clients found me on Google. They were looking for someone with my skills and literally submitted a contact form on my website. Even if they are just information seeking, getting them to your blog is pulling them into a relationship with you and positioning you as the expert.

I think of Facebook Ads like the impulse buy items near the checkout in the grocery store. Am I looking for that candy bar? No. Do I like candy? Yes. Even though I didn’t come to the store intending to buy it, would I buy it if it’s put in front of my face and caches my attention? Sometimes, yes. So if I see your ad for that awesome freebie download – I probably will click on it and check it out. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to buy. It just means I’m interested enough in your topic to click when it’s presented to me. This is why all of the experts tell you to send your Facebook Ad traffic to a freebie rather than a sales page for a product. It’s cold traffic and you need to do the work of warming them up to a sale.

SEO is a more passive way to attract the people who are already looking for what you have to offer – many of them ready to buy. It can put you just where you’re needed, when you’re needed.

Facebook Ads are a more active way to grab people who don’t know they need you and (metaphorically speaking) wave the candy bar right in front of their face until they grab it. There is a likelihood that they are interested in what you offer – but no indicator that they are ready to buy.

So which should you use – SEO or Facebook Ads?

Well, it depends on which type of traffic you need. If you are looking to build a consistent stream of traffic with people who are looking for information or are ready to buy in your key areas, then SEO is going to work for you . Done right, it will provide a constant stream of new visitors, and bring old visitors back as you target new topics on your website or blog. Instead of spending hours on social media driving traffic to your website, SEO will consistently drive them for you. SEO isn’t a sometime thing. It’s about small tasks into your posting habits that tells the search engines when to display your content.

If you are launching a shiny new product or service and you want a fast influx of customers, Facebook Ads will get the job done. If you target the audiences that are open to purchasing what you’re selling, Facebook Ads will waft that sweet candy scent right under their little noses for you and get them to click!

I need to say that it’s not entirely as black and white of a picture as I’ve painted it. You can use Facebook ads to drive traffic to a blog post. And SEO can be successful at drawing customers to a product launch. But you could also use that wooden handled axe to cut your apple. Just watch you don’t lose those fingers!

SEO will drive traffic to your website for FREE while you sleep. Want to learn more about how to use SEO on your website? Registration is open for the Do It Yourself SEO for Small Business course! I’ll walk you through how to implement SEO on your WordPress or Squarespace website. Grab your seat now!

Finding an OptimizePress Affiliate Plugin That Works

Sometimes the very thing that makes me so passionate about WordPress is the very thing that has me pulling out my hair and wanting to kick my laptop to Timbuktu. Such was the case when I spent 8 HOURS yesterday trying to find a low cost OptimizePress affiliate plugin that works for me.

There are thousands of awesome developers who are out there creating plugins and themes for us business owners to use. There is a tool to help me do practically anything I could ever need to grow my business on my website. That is incredibly powerful. Until the tools I need don’t play nicely together.

When I was planning the launch of my Do It Yourself SEO for Small Business Course, I had a MASTER PLAN. I planned out every blog post, every email, and every image. Somewhere on that list, in the category of things to do once all of the content was finished, was to create an affiliate program for the course.

As you know, nothing ever goes exactly as planned.

Why I Can’t Use the Built-In Affiliate Integrations with OptimizePress

OptimizePress is a program for marketing and launching courses. It’s got a bit of a learning curve, but now that I’ve worked with it a bit I’m pretty happy with it. When I was doing my research, I saw that it would integrate with an affiliate program. Perfect! Or so I thought.

When it was time for me to set up said affiliate program… well, let’s just say there were some barriers.

  • The two programs that were integrated were pretty pricey, and that just wasn’t an option for me.
  • The affiliate coupon option requires PayPal Pro forms, which means I’d need to implement an SSL certificate on my site. Since the cart was already open, I didn’t want to mess with that.
  • I figured out how to implement PayPal forms with PayPal Express Checkout (so I didn’t need SSL) but I couldn’t figure out how to run a report on coupon usage. I might there somewhere, but I couldn’t find it.

After a few hours of messing around and searching for help, I decided I would need to find a third party affiliate plugin that works with OptimizePress.

The Problem with Most Affiliate Plugins

I decided to try WP Affiliate Manager first. It was a free plugin and had great reviews. The installation and setup was fairly easy. I got it running smoothly and tracking impressions through affiliate links. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to track sales. Guess what? It doesn’t work with OptimizePress. You see, even with my web background I hadn’t quite gotten the concept of how these affiliate plugins worked.

Most affiliate plugins hook into the code for specific payment methods only, and can only be used with those tools. The problem is that NONE of these plugins specifically say that can’t be used with tools not on the list. They assume that you know that.

I feel kind of silly for not figuring that out sooner. But if I didn’t figure it out right away, I’m betting most of you wouldn’t figure it out right away either. I hoped I’ve saved your hours of frustration through THAT admission!

The OptimizePress Affiliate Plugin That Will Work

Then I found some affiliate plugins that worked a bit differently. They didn’t count sales. They counted registrations.

Eureka! I thought. Since people register for my course after purchase, this should work perfectly. I tried Affiliate Plus, let’s just say after a couple of hours I gave up. It’s a very simple and light plugin. It was just a little too simple.

Then I hit pay dirt. I found the WordPress Affiliate and Referral Plugin on Code Canyon. It had 4.5 stars and 151 comments. I spent time reading through the comments and realized that there were people out there who wanted WAAAAY more out of an affiliate plugin than I needed. (I felt MUCH better after that).

I realized from the comments that this plugin wasn’t perfect and was lacking somewhat in the documentation aspect, but it seemed to do exactly what I needed it to do. It hooked into the default WordPress registration process (just like OptimizePress) and so it should record sales based on the after-sale registration for my course.

To make a much longer story short, it works. Despite some frustrations about the lack of instructions, it wasn’t too difficult to set up. Here are the basics:

  • Create an OptimizePress package called “affiliates”.
  • Create a page named Affiliate Dashboard and add it to the affiliate package and free membership level. Put a link to it in the sidebar or nav menu.
  • Use the short codes in the affiliate plugin to add the links, creative marketing materials, and successful referrals to the Affiliate Dashboard.
  • To grant access to the Affiliate Dashboard, create a free account and add the affiliates package to it.

Affiliate Plugin That Works with Optimize Press

The one capability I decided to live without is the ability to change the payout levels per affiliate, and to set a percentage rather than a set payout amount. I’ll have to calculate those things manually when the course cart closes.

What I’ll Do the Next Time

Now that I’ve got it all figured out and working, here are some of my lessons learned. Maybe I can save you hours of frustration.

  • Implement the SSL certificate, even if you think you won’t need it. Although it hasn’t been proven to improve your SEO, Google does recommend it. And it’s just safer. I skimped on this step because all of the payment information happens on PayPal, not on my site. And, I was overwhelmed with so much else to focus on, that I just didn’t do it.
  • Test early, test often. I left this step to the last because again, I was overwhelmed with all of my other tasks. In the future, I won’t try to implement something like this last minute. I’ll either fit it into my launch schedule earlier, or I’ll live without it.
  • If you’re purchasing a theme or plugin like OptimizePress, ask pre-sales questions. I know it’s difficult to predict what you need to ask. Sometimes you think you know from the sales copy exactly what you’re getting. It’s not until you start implementing that things fall short. But ask anyway!

So that’s it! I now have a working affiliate program with my Optimiz Press installation. I hope my hair-pulling, laptop kicking experience can make your life a little easier someday! If you know of any other great ways to implement an affiliate program with Optimize Press, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

And if you want to start driving more traffic to your website, check out my Do It Yourself SEO for Small Business course. You don’t have to be a techy pro to make SEO work for your website!

How Long Should A Blog Post Be?

How long should a blog post be? Ask me this question and you’ll see my face squinch up. That’s because I’m about to give a reply that nobody likes to hear. “It depends…”

Sorry guys, there is no exact magic number for blog post length. That’s going to depend on your topic, your site format, your audience, and your writing style. However, I can tell you what you should focus on in your blog posts. Giving Google the information it needs to know what your page is about is a key factor in bringing organic search engine traffic to your website.

Your website and it’ content are crawled by a little guy we like to call “Googlebot”. You’ll know he’s visiting when you see traffic in your analytics from one or several user-agents that you probably won’t recognize. Most often, those are “bots” or “spiders” sent by search engines. They’ve stopped by for a look at your site. Google crawls several of your website pages on each visit and your site may be crawled numerous times per day.

Instead of worrying about exact post length, you need to make sure that you’re not producing thin content. Loren Baker, the Founder of Searching Journal (SEJ) explains that “This new Panda algorithmic update reinforces the fact that Google is not a fan of thin content and that crawl efficiency along with serving clear and direct data messages to Google are becoming more important than ever.” (Panda was the September 2014 update to the Google search algorhythm)

What is thin content?

Thin content is considered anything on your website that gives the site a shallow or low quality vibe. It includes text that you’ve borrowed from other websites (even other websites that you own) and content that doesn’t have enough detail to be helpful. Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing and fluff writing. Website copy and blog posts must offer high quality value to its readers.
How do I avoid thin content?

If I could offer one piece of advice it would be to give your readers information that is incredibly useful and well thought out. To avoid producing thin content you need to:

  • Write on topics that your potential ideal clients want to read about; don’t focus on topics just for the sake of getting ranked in Google.
  • Write your content to communicate a powerful message to your readers; don’t whip up low quality content just to meet your blogging deadline.
  • Write your own take on popular topics and quote or site other sources; don’t use large chunks of content from other websites.

What if I have thin content on my website?

While I’m sure it wasn’t your intention to put thin content on your site, chances are that it’s there. Unlike a broken link or too many plugins, thin content is not as easy to spot. There are a few things that you can do to find and repair your already published content.

Take a peek at your already published posts and the copy on your webpages and try to be objective. Look at it from your visitor’s point of view. Are you blog posts long enough (at least 500 words) and do they provide valuable and usable information? Does the copy on your various webpages really support what your website message is all about? If you answered “no” to either of these questions, than it might be time for a little makeover.

Find areas where you have the opportunity to add more detail or give additional information. Streamline wording that feels bulky and unnatural. If you find content that just isn’t up to par, now is the time to determine if that page still serves your purpose. It is not uncommon for a page to no longer support the goals of the brand. Let’s face it. We all wear out our welcome from time to time. If that is the case, just scrap the page all together and redirect.

Also take a look at your analytics. Is your bounce rate higher on some pages and not others? Thin content may be the reason. There are other reasons, such an ineffective calls-to-action but we will save that for another time.

Make Googlebot Smile

To be effective, blogging can’t be a random process. Being intentional with your blogging efforts can pay off with increased traffic which should be a goal for every business site. And not only increased traffic but the right traffic. If you want to learn more about how to make the Googlebot happy the next time he stops by for a visit, check out the Do-It-Yourself SEO for Small Business online course.

Site Condor WordPress SEO Plugin Review

In my experience, SEO can be difficult or intimidating because it’s not a tangible, visual thing. You know that you have to do specific things on each post, optimize each image, etc. But it’s a little bit like those team building games where you have to follow directions blindfolded. Did you catch every Alt field on every image? Did you stay within the characters on every Meta Title? Even if you’re using a WordPress SEO plugin or an SEO optimized theme there is no easy over-arching way to find the things you’ve missed.

Enter Site Condor. Site Condor is a service that shows you how search engines crawl your website. It can help you identify errors that are causing problems for search engines, as well as places where you can make improvements.

You can use Site Condor as a service on any website platform, but the WordPress plugin does have advantages. Summarized reports, tooltips, charting, and trends are not available through, so the WordPress SEO plugin brings you some extra convenience by having key indicators within the dashboard, pictured below. You’ll definitely notice any issues right away.

Site Condor WordPress SEO Plugin Dashboard

Know Your SEO Issues

When the report runs, you’ll get some great information you can use at a glance to fix common issues that could be negatively impacting your SEO such as:

  • Pages with redirects
  • Broken links
  • Missing SEO elements like mage titles, meta descriptions, and image alt tags

This was particularly helpful to me. I found over 50 images on WP Plugin Coach that didn’t have Alt tags. Apparently I load up images in a hurry and forget to go back and take care of my SEO. Oops! I’ll be going back to fix that!

Visualizing Your Website Structure

I find this service to be very interesting because although I know all of the things that I need to do to make my website SEO optimized, it’s very difficult to visualize it. For example, I know that Google likes me to create internal links from page to page throughout my website. I’ve never had a way to keep track of that, they just build over time.

Here’s a screen shot of how Site Condor portrays the links that I have throughout my site. I can click and drag these dots closer to each other to view the different ways pages connect.

WordPress SEO Plugin Review
If you aren’t sure how to use these interactive visualizations, there are descriptions and videos accessible from each visualization page.

Does it Replace Other WordPress SEO Plugins?

I talked with Sebastian Brocher, one of the creators of Site Condor, to ask a few questions about the plugin. “The SiteCondor SEO WordPress plugin brings the same technology we built for digital experts to the DIY webmaster.” He said. “While there are many other great SEO plugins available already, none of them focuses on the ‘outside-in’ view. Our plugin does exactly that, exposing how a search engine may see your site, and ultimately helping you improve your on-page SEO, optimize content quality, and get more organic traffic. It is the perfect complement to other plugins such as Yoast et. al. Test, discover, explore, and understand with SiteCondor, implement changes through your other plugins, rinse and repeat.”

Did you catch what Sebastian said about Site Condor working with other plugins such as WordPress SEO? This is a plugin to analyze website on your SEO, not to help you implement SEO on your site. You’ll still need a separate SEO plugin if you need help applying SEO to your pages.

What Does it Cost?

Site Condor has a free level with 5 credits per months. Paid levels range from $9 to $79. This recommendation is based on the free level. The WordPress plugin is currently free, but it looks like a premium version is in the works. You can sign up for a discount through the Site Condor dashboard.

Does it Help Me With SEO? My Recommendation…

SEO plugins like WordPress SEO by Yoast do a great job of helping you apply the SEO. Site Condor is a great complement. It helps you track what you’ve done and helps you catch the things you miss. The trick here will be making the time each month to look at the reports and correct the errors you find. Schedule a little maintenance time into your month and you should see some impact.

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