I mentioned WordPress plugins earlier as one of the benefits of having a WordPress blog. Now it’s time to look at plugins and find useful ones for your blog. I love plugins, as do most bloggers, because they make your blog perform better. Plugins are add ons to the WordPress platform created by various programmers that help give your blog more functionality.
While plugins are great, you don’t need to use every one ever created. Having too many plugins will just clutter up your blog and make it load slower. Use plugins wisely and don’t go overboard installing every last one available.
How to install WordPress plugins
The easiest way to install plugins on your WordPress blog is through the WordPress admin area of your blog, since it is what you are already used to using by this point. Follow this process:
Visit Plugins –> Add New –> Fill In Blank With Plugin Name –> Hit Search –> Select the Plugin –> Click Install –> Click Activate
Once the plugin is activated, you will find the configuration panel on the left sidebar of your admin area under Tools or Settings. Some plugins have their own section on the sidebar as well.
You also have two other options for installing plugins, which will be necessary for some third party plugins:
- Download the .zip file of the WordPress plugin. Go to the “upload” link under the Plugins admin section and select the zip file to install. WordPress will upload and expand the plugin for you.
- Upload the expanded plugin folder from your hard drive into the plugins directory via your FTP program (located under wp-content/plugins). After uploading, you can refresh the plugins page and activate your new plugin.
The easiest option is obviously the first, since you don’t have to do any extra work and you don’t even have to leave your WordPress admin area. This is the method I primarily use. If a plugin is not readily available by searching – such as a paid plugin, I download the zip file to my computer and then upload it through the plugin admin area.
Recommended WordPress Plugins
There are thousands of plugins to choose from that can do almost anything for your blog from running surveys to tracking traffic statistics. But which are essential? Which are best? Here is a list of the type of plugins you need to be using with your blog and the ones I use (or have previously used) and recommend for each type. For more WordPress plugins, visit the WordPress.org plugins database. Just remember that more is not necessarily better.
An SEO plugin.
All In One SEO – Some plugins are especially helpful for optimizing SEO (search engine optimization) on your blog. The topic of SEO is discussed in depth in a later section in this ebook, but for now know that the All in One SEO plugin is important and will help you optimize your blog so more people will find you through the search engines. This plugin is useful if you are using a free theme that doesn’t have much SEO support built in.
A sitemap plugin.
Google XML Sitemap – This plugin is important because it automatically creates and updates your blog’s sitemap and then submits it to the popular search engines. It is a recommended SEO practice to have a sitemap for your website, and if you have a huge blog or website it is a good idea because it helps Google crawl and index your site more easily.
A related posts plugin.
WordPress Related Posts – This plugin allows you to show a list of related posts at the bottom of any post. This helps readers see related content they may be interested in reading, exposing them to more of your blog and keeping them there longer.
A social sharing plugin.
Sociable – This social plugin automatically inserts social media buttons at the bottom of your blog posts. This plugin allows you to choose which sites you want to display, the text that appears above the icons, and how the icons are displayed. You can insert your own social media icons if you prefer to use your own instead of those provided with the plugin.
TweetMeme – I use a special button for Twitter sharing in addition to Sociable. The TweetMeme plugin inserts a retweet button on your blog that shows how many times the blog post has been retweeted and allows readers to tweet the post straight from the button. Using TweetMeme increases the number of times your posts are shared on Twitter, leading to more visitors and subscribers.
A spam prevention plugin.
Akismet – Akismet catches SPAM comments before they show up on your blog. To use Akismet on your blog you will have to register for a WordPress.com account then use the API key for your Akismet settings. Akismet is included with your WordPress install, all you need to do is get the API key and set it up to work. I recommend randomly checking your spam comments before deleting them because some people will get accidentally marked as spam and you will never see their comments even though they are valid.
A backup plugin.
WordPress Database Backup – Having a plugin backup your blog is essential in case anything happens to your blog. In case you ever have an oops moment where something goes wrong or if you ever get hacked. You don’t want to lose all your information, especially if you have been working on it for months or years. Make sure you set your plugin to backup your blog often – at least once a week.
Those plugins are ones that I would consider essential. You need them to make your blog better.
The following plugins are other good ones that I would recommend for certain situations.
FD Feedburner Plugin – This automatically converts every one of your feed links to your Feedburner URL, which is a lot easier than trying to do it manually.
WP Greet Box – This plugin shows a box in your blog that welcomes your readers with a greeting depending on where new visitor came from.
Thesis OpenHook – If you do decide to use the Thesis theme, this plugin is essential. It makes it much easier to edit the custom_functions.php, custom.css and add bits of code to customize your Thesis Theme.
Remember that plugins help you make your blog better. There are thousands of plugins available for WordPress and you can find anything you need by searching here. But just because you can use a plugin doesn’t mean you need to. Try to only use the ones that are essential and avoid over cluttering your blog with cool plugins. Unless it has a defined purpose for your blog you probably don’t need to use it.