Updating Your Blog

I'm going through a general round of planning my online activities a kind of Spring Cleaning I guess. Part of that is looking at the plugins and other bits of software on my blogs.

What Plugins Do you Need for your WordPress blog?

The answer will depend on the purpose of your blog. An artist wants to showcase their work, a blogger wants an efficient and attractive publishing experience while an Internet Marketer might just want to focus on their Optin page with all else being secondary.

So you start there, with defining and writing down your purpose.

There are basics which are common to all blogs – whether they are simply online journals, membership sites or sales sites.

We need security; we need a variety of routine admin tasks and most want to earn some income.

So we choose the plugins – in other words the software, that will help us accomplish these goals.

Playing with Plugins

You can go nuts and install dozens of plugins – we all do at first because it can be so much fun installing plugins and seeing them work. This is how we normal people – those who cannot code the blog for ourselves get what we want!

Sooner or later we learn that lots of plugins are poorly coded and have security loopholes and also that the price for having lots of plugins is having a SLOW blog.

Not nice.

So lets look through some of the plugins I've used over the last few years and see what our shortlist may be.

Security is a major part of being on the Net and so we need to choose some good security plugins.

  1. We need to back our blog up
  2. Stop logins from hackers
  3. Protect our blog from hacker exploits

So how do we do this?

First there are several plugins that can perform an automatic backup and give you a copy. I have used WP DB BACKUP for years and get the zipped file emailed to me on a weekly basis. You can alter the schedule and get an instant download or to a remote location like Dropbox.

Yes there are other options but I've never needed any more than this plugin supplies. If you want a complete copy of the blog you may want to look at BackupBuddy – which is not free!

Beyond Security

When the basic safety and security of your blog has been dealt with we can get down to work. There are many tasks we need to do and all this I am covering under the nondescript word of "admin"

We can make a list and then see what plugins we need to do these tasks.

Admin Plugins

  1. A text editor to upgrade the truly awful WordPress editor
  2. A menu that to replace the truly awful WordPress menu
  3. A site map
  4. An SEO plugin
  5. A Related posts plugin
  6. Contact form
  7. Website Policies
  8. Subscribe to comments
  9. Website Statistics

Now let's go through the plugins, one by one…

Text

And you may use others too for special purposes. Each additional plugin may cause you problems as well as delivering some extra feature. The plugins may fight with each other; may slow the site down and provide an extra vulnerability to hackers.

It is a wonder to behold that The WordPress community of coders – whose motto is "Code is Poetry" have not given us a decent space in our blogs to write and spell check and so forth. Looking at any Word Processor and comparing that with the "Text Editor" in WordPress I'm amazed at how pathetic it is.

So we reach for a "Text" plugin. I like to use the CKEditor for WordPress. It has the functions I need and is attractive and easy to use. I will sometimes install the Drop Caps plugin too.

Menu

I dislike menus along the left hand side of the screen or blog or whatever so I have always used the Admin Menu by Andrew Ozh. Lately I came across the "Easy Admin Menu" which allows you to sort your menu into any order you like. I love this control and wondered if it would work along with my normal Ozh menu…it does.

Site Map

You don't need a special plugin for this if you install the SEO plugin we look at next…

SEO

SEO is hugely controversial and complex, but simply put is the way of presenting the material in your blog so that more people searching on the search engines find it. In the past, even the recent past there was a whole rigmarole of choosing a Focus keyword and a string of other keywords and working out the so called keyword density and so on.

Bluntly I have to say that this is ALL nonsense and following this outdated advice may get your blog ignored by Google or even worse, much worse!

So yes you should install the WordPress SEO plugin and carefully customise it. But in use make sure you ignore some of the sections asking for your Focus keyword and other nonsense. The plugin has other uses and is well worth having.

Related Posts

Not essential but if you feel it would your readers find other stuff on your blog then install it. I have used lots of different such plugins over the years and this one seems as good as any.

A Contact form

Quite ridiculous that this is not provided. There are several but the one I have most experience and faith in is Contact Form 7

Website Policies

On every legitimate site there will be a slew of legal documents posted as separate pages – not posts. Truly only a lawyer who specialises in the area of Internet Law can guide you here. What most of us do is use a plugin and hope for the best. If you choose this route then at least get legal guidance when you have made the first earnings from the site! Some of these plugins have been used to insert malicious code into blogs, so beware!

You could look at this plugin. Or for the British webmaster this one.

Comments

One of the main factors that separates blogs from standard websites is that we can leave comments on a blog. Some blogs it is true turn the comment facility off which I find strangely unsettling! The subscribe to comments plugin emails your commenter when you reply. This is important in building a relationship between readers and authors!

Often its the lack of a relationship that is due to the poor performance of the blog

2 plugins spring to mind here one free which is the "Subscribe to Comments Reloaded" and Comment Love

and they are both good so choose! And yes you CAN have both!

Statistics

Website statistics are a big topic, well worthy of a post or two on their own but I'll be brief. The question of how much to involve search engines such as Google in your website is a vexed one. I dislike Google intensely and resist installing Google Analytics plugins and usually install an alternative such as WP Stats or Statcounter.

But you may be perfectly happy with Google sniffing around so why not use the Google Analyticator or Google Analytics plugin by Yoast ?

Business Plugins

Unless you are running a hobby blog or an online journal you need to set the blog up to help you build a business and make some money.

AdSense  – the most useless way to monetise a blog is to show Google's AdSense advertisements. This is especially so for a beginner who has little to no traffic and without torrents of visitors you'll make no AdSense income. In spite of that you might still want to try that out for yourself so here ya go for an AdSense plugin.

Affiliate Links – the practical way to create an income is to use special links to particular products – affiliate links. Again there's a ton of these but a popular one is Pretty Links.

The free version is called "Pretty Links Lite" and the upgrade is "Pretty Links Pro" and both are good.

List Building – and the most important and best way to build a business is to create and build a mailing list. You do not need massive traffic to do this but you do need great content and probably a downloadable gift such as an ebook. You can start with a simple, "Join my mailing list for speedy updates" and take it from there.

There are many Optin plugins and this is a good example.

Publishing posts and hopping onto the social media sites share your post is essential for all these methods so you'll need a Social Sharing plugins and this is a good one – Simple Share Button Adder.

Any Other Plugins?

Is that all, Alex? O don't ask – I could go on and on about extra plugins but I think that's better left for another post. I've done my best here to give you a good steer on which ones to use as well as some options.

Although I have given the links to the WordPress pages the links are on I don't recommend you download the plugins to your computer and then upload them to your blog. We did that a few years ago but its easier to use your Add Plugins tab inside your own Admin Dashboard.

Hope that helps and please speak up if if you reckon I've left some important plugins out!

Alex

Hello Dolly – Goodbye Dolly

One of the first things you notice as a beginner to blogging is the “Hello Dolly” plugin. with all the mystery and complication of blogging that all beginners face it seems incongruous if not weird to have this plugin pre – installed on your blog.

Hello Dolly

Most people don’t give it a single thought and ignore it. This is very sensible but for some reason it irks me to have this useless plugin in my blog! So I just hit the delete button usually and say “Goodbye Dolly” and “I would rather not see you again Dolly” – but I know that the next blog I install that pesky plugin will be there.

Akismet

Of course Akismet – the anti spam plugin comes with the blog too and that I’m quite happy about. Akismet – and the name comes from the letter “A” standing for automatic added to “Kismet” meaning fate or maybe even revenge – the plugin’s  useful and provides a pretty much hands off or automatic way of giving spammy comments what they deserve – the trash bin.

Akismet is not always correct but it’s pretty good and earns its place in the blog.

Unlike “Hello Dolly”.

Anyhow it gives me a little fun to delete it as I tidy up a blog I’m working on.

How about you – do you say “Hello Dolly” when you login to your blog or do you ignore it. How do you feel about WordPress coming with plugins already installed?

Speak out and leave your opinion below…

WordPress Security – How to Protect Your Blog

There’s just been notice from wordpress that all WordPress blogs need to be updated to the latest version as a matter of urgency. Not being a coder and on the inside track of WordPress security problems I do not know the details, I just took action on the alert and updated all my blogs. The simplest way of protecting your blogs is keeping them up to date.

Next comes using the right security plugins.

Read the rest of this entry »

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