Do you use WordPress for your real estate investing website and want to know the best plugins to use?
WordPress is a great platform, and a big part of that is all the plugins that are available. The problem is, they’re not all good. The ‘not good’ ones range from simply not working the way you want to actually harming your website by allowing hackers to get in.
I’ve been building websites for real estate investors for over a decade so I’ve tried a lot of things over the years. I once spent $500 on a real estate-related plugin that sucked and I couldn’t get my money back. Ouch. I’ll help you save some time and money by pointing you in the right direction. Most of the plugins are free. A couple will cost you a little but are well worth it.
I thought of trying to list these according to importance, but they’re all important for different reasons. I use all 7 of these on almost every investor website. So I decided to just list them in alphabetical order.
Plugin #1: Akismet… Really?
If you’ve used WordPress, you probably realize this plugin comes bundled with WordPress, so it may seem like a silly choice. But I’ve found lots of people don’t really understand what it is (maybe that’s because of the weird name that doesn’t describe what it is) or why they should use it so they don’t set it up.
In short, Akismet prevents you from getting spam comments on your site. When you set up a new site on WordPress and start posting some things on it, notifications are sent out to different web services that there is new content available. While that’s a good thing, some people abuse it. They have automated systems set up that find all WordPress sites and try to post spam comments on the sites.
Why do they do this? They’re just trying to get links coming to their website. For SEO purposes, the more incoming links to their site, the higher their site will rank. Or other times they may be hoping people will see the comment and click the link.
Obviously you don’t want these spammers posting their junk on your website. One nice thing is that by default WordPress holds the comments in moderation where you have to approve them before they show up on your website. But this is a hassle to keep up with. I’ve had sites that, in a short period of time, had hundreds or thousands of spam comments I had to go through and delete which wasted lots of time.
Akismet is a little bit of hassle to set up, but the good news is that once it’s set up, you don’t have to do anything else with it. It just works. It filters out spam comments much like how your email filters out spam/junk email. You can go through and look at them if you want to make sure nothing ended up there that shouldn’t have. I don’t think I’ve ever had it put something in spam that really wasn’t.
To set it up you have to register for an account at Akismet.com. Is it free? Not exactly. It works on an honor system basically. For commercial sites it’s currently $5/month. For non-commercial sites it’s “name your own price”. The last I checked you could set that to $0. But an investor website is a commercial site so you’d need the $5/month plan. Once you have an account you get an API code, which is just a bunch of random numbers and letters. You’ll need to copy and paste that into your website, on the settings page for Akismet.
Plugin #2: BackWPup
BackWPup is a way to create backups of your website. There are other good options too, like BackupBuddy. I use WP Engine for hosting and they have their own backup system which is great, so I use that instead for sites I have hosted there.
Making backups of your site is very important. You put all that work and money into setting up your site but you could lose it all in one day if you don’t have backups. Sometimes hard drives crash on the server or hackers may get in to your site and destroy it. I’ve had both happen. If you don’t have backups you’re in trouble.
BackWPup is a free plugin and it’s really flexible and works well. You can save the backups just about anywhere you want. What I’d suggest is setting it up so the backups run automatically, preferably in the middle of the night when no one is visiting your website since running backups can slow down your site a little.
You can set backups to run at whatever frequency you want. For sites that you update multiple times per week, you can run backups daily or a few times per week. If you don’t update things often, a weekly update is probably fine.
You can have the backups sent to various places. For example, Dropbox. Personally, I have an account on Amazon S3, which is very affordable for online storage, so I have backups sent there.
You can set it to keep a certain number of backups and to delete anything more than that. So I might set it where it keeps a couple months worth of updates on hand and delete anything older than that. It’s a good idea to keep them for a while. Sometimes you might find there was a problem with your site that you didn’t notice right away and you may need to go back to older backups to get rid of the problem.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to go into how to set it up because there are lots of settings. I wrote a tutorial for setting up BackWPup a while back that goes into full detail about setting it up which you can read if you need help.
This is another case where it’s kind of a hassle to set up initially, but once it’s done you don’t really have to worry about it and you have the peace of mind knowing your site is backed up.
Plugin #3: Gravity Forms
Gravity Forms is a plugin that allows you to create forms on your website that people can fill out. You’re probably going to want lead-capture forms on your website. If so, Gravity Forms is a great choice.
If all you need is a simple contact form with name, email and a message, then Gravity Forms might be more than you need. There are other contact form plugins like CForms.
Gravity Forms is great for a few reasons:
- It’s powerful – you can create really complex forms if needed.
- It’s easy to use – despite having lots of features, it’s simple to create and edit forms
- It connects well with other services – there are lots of add-ons for it that can connect it to just about anything you want.
On the downside, it’s not free. It starts at $39. It’s well worth it, though.
One of my favorite things about it is the ability to create “conditional” fields. So let’s say you have a form for motivated sellers. You ask them if they have a mortgage. If they do, you need more details like the mortgage balance, whether they’re behind on payments, etc. But if they don’t have a mortgage, there’s no point in asking those questions, right? With conditional fields you can set it up where if a user selects one thing, additional fields show up, but if they select something else the fields don’t appear. Setting that up may be a little advanced, but it’s a powerful feature. At the end of this article I’ll share a way for you to use some forms like this I made for free.
Gravity Forms in general, though, is very easy to use. You just click and drag things around to create your form. Setting up a basic form doesn’t require any special skills.
Another thing I like is that you can connect your forms to other services. For example, maybe you want to set it up where when someone fills out a certain form, they’re added to your mailing list on Aweber or MailChimp. It’s pretty easy to make that happen. There are lots of add-ons available for Gravity Forms that will connect it to other services.
Some of the add-ons that the company who makes Gravity Forms has available require buying some of their more expensive plans. But there are quite a few free ones available too. And one cool thing is that they have an add-on available for Zapier, which means you can connect it to just about any other service you can imagine.
For example, every time a certain form is filled out, you could have the info added to a spreadsheet on Google Docs or put it in your CRM system or even send yourself a text message.
What happens by default when someone fills out a form you create? Two things: 1) You get an email with all the information and 2) The information is stored in the database on your website.
The email part is great so you know when someone fills out a form in case you don’t log in to your website often. But email isn’t 100% reliable, so it’s great to also have them stored on your website. You can log in at any time and see all your leads.
Another cool thing is that when you view the leads on your website, you can also add notes. So, for example, you may want to add a note that you called a certain lead and what you talked about on the phone.
All around, Gravity Forms is a great plugin if you need any kind of forms on your website.
Plugin #4: SumoMe
SumoMe, besides having a strange name, helps you get more traffic to your website. It has a number of different tools you can use. The basic functionality gives you an easy way to let users share your website with their friends on social media sites.
To be honest, I need to experiment with some of the different tools it includes because some of them sound really cool. I’ll do that and if I find out some cool things I’ll let you know in a future article.
But for now, why I suggest SumoMe is for adding buttons on your website so visitors can share your site with people they know.
For example, maybe someone comes to your site and they think it’s cool and want to share it with someone. If you have SumoMe set up, they should be able to easily share it with their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, etc. Their friends may see that and click your site to see what it’s all about, which increases your exposure and gets more people to your website without costing you anything extra.
SumoMe is free but they also have some paid plans available. I’d suggest starting out with free and if you like it you can always upgrade.
Plugin #5: TinyMCE Advanced
In WordPress when you’re creating a new page / post or editing an existing one, the formatting options are pretty limited. You get the basic stuff like Bold, Italics, lists, etc. But there isn’t a way to make the text bigger or to change the font or even underline text.
TinyMCE Advanced is a free plugin that lets you customize the tools available in the WordPress editor. You can just click and drag the tools you want and even rearrange things so the ones you use most often are the easiest to find.
It’s a pretty simple plugin but it’s nice to have more control over the editing tools available.
Once you install it, you’ll need to go to the settings page for it and customize the toolbar the way you want and save your changes. Then, when you go to edit a post or page, you’ll see the new options available.
Plugin #6: WordPress SEO
You probably have heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It’s a way to let search engines like Google know what your website is all about and help you to rank better for certain search terms.
There are a lot of misconceptions about SEO. It’s not magic and it’s not instant. Like just about every other part of your business, to get results it takes time and/or money to see results. You can’t install this plugin and thing people will just start finding your site right away. You need to know a little bit about how SEO works (there is lots of free information online) and you’ll have to put in some time getting things set up or pay someone to do it for you. And you won’t see results right away. SEO takes time. As I always say, SEO is a long-term strategy and shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for marketing.
However, with that out of the way, SEO is a great way to attract people who may be searching online for solutions. Those can be great leads because they’re actively searching for help you can provide – much better than trying to chase people. I’ve made thousands of dollars from people who found me through search engines. So it’s definitely worth pursuing.
WordPress SEO is a free plugin. You just install it and then you have a new menu item called “SEO” where you can set up a few settings. But you don’t need to do much there. On each page of your site there is a section for SEO settings, since SEO is mostly something you do on a page-by-page basis.
One cool feature is that you can put in the keywords you’d like a certain page to be ranked for and it has a little guide that shows you how well you’re doing. For example, maybe you put that you want your keywords are “wholesale real estate deals in Denver”. It shows you different elements of the page, like the page title, web address, headings, content, etc. and how well each of those is doing for that search term. It has a little red light if something is missing and a green light if you’re good to go. Nice and easy.
Plugin #7: WP-Property
This is actually the only plugin in the list that is designed specifically for real estate.
WP-Property is a free plugin for putting property listings on your website. I’ve tried a few different ones and so far this one is my favorite. It’s not perfect but pretty good.
One nice thing is that it’s pretty flexible. You can change settings to make it work the way you want. It’s not designed specifically for investors – it could be used by agents too. But you can set it up how you want.
Once you install it on your site, you have a new menu item called “Properties”. You can go there and click Add New to add one. From that point, it’s pretty much like a WordPress page or post. It uses the default editor. So you can add a description, photos, etc.
It does add some extra options to the editor page, though, like pricing, a contact phone number, the address, etc. If you add the address of the property, it will automatically generate a map. With some types of deals you probably don’t want to use that. But for others it might make sense.
I’ve found that on most sites some things don’t look quite right or work the way I want out-of-the-box and I have to change a few settings in the plugins options to make things work the way I want. But the options are there and once I get it set up it works well.
Although the plugin itself is free, there are some paid add-ons available. For example, there is one that lets other people submit properties to your site from the front end. This might be good for bird dogs, for example.
OK, so there we have it, the top 7 plugins for real estate investors.
*Just for full disclosure, two of the services I mentioned, BackupBuddy and Gravity Forms, have affiliate programs so I used my affiliate link for them. That’s not why I recommended them by any means, but since I’m giving my honest recommendation and giving them referrals it just made sense to sign up for their affiliate program. So you can say thanks by using my link if you want, but you don’t have to.
If you’ve already got a WordPress-based site that’s working well for you, you can get these plugins added to it and make it even better.
If you don’t already have a site or if you don’t want to mess with installing plugins and just want a site that works, I’m giving away free websites for real estate investors to everyone reading this at: DoneDealWebsite.com!