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.
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.
- We need to back our blog up
- Stop logins from hackers
- 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!
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.
- A text editor to upgrade the truly awful WordPress editor
- A menu that to replace the truly awful WordPress menu
- A site map
- An SEO plugin
- A Related posts plugin
- Contact form
- Website Policies
- Subscribe to comments
- Website Statistics
Now let's go through the plugins, one by one…
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.
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.
You don't need a special plugin for this if you install the SEO plugin we look at next…
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.
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
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!
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
and they are both good so choose! And yes you CAN have both!
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.
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!