One of the most popular platforms for blogging is WordPress. It is a program that is included free with most hosting plans and can be accessed through your cPanel and then going to Fantastico (a script library). You will see a list of different programs that can be installed on your site such as message boards, FAQs, image galleries, billing, polls and more. In the blogging section, WordPress is the most widely used. It is easy to learn and there are many ways to customize it so that your site is unique.
One of the best types of WordPress customization is done through the use of plugins. These are scripts that are plugged into the theme so you can add in extras improving not only the functionality of your site, but also the fun factor. I would love to share my favorite free WordPress plugins for bloggers with you. Please note, that if you have a e-commerce site then your plugin needs will not be covered by this list.
- Akismet is your first line of defense against spam. It works beautifully. I’ve only one non-spam comment going into the spam folder in the last two years.
- Broken Link Checker periodically scans your site looking for links that no longer work. These links can be in old posts or from your comment section. It alerts you and you have a choice to keep it linked so you can recheck if the site goes back up or unlink the text.
- Comment Luv has to be my top MUST HAVE plugin. It allows those who comment on your site to automatically link back to their most recent post on their site. It is a great form of free advertising and sharing between bloggers. There is a free (what I have) level and a paid version that offers a lot of extras.
- Comment Reply Notification inserts a little check box in the comment area so that the person who leaves a comment can be notified when you respond to them. As I mentioned in my Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers, replying to people who take the time to comment is huge.
- Contact Form 7 is an easy way to create a contact form and insert it into a page on your blog. It is simple to use and allows you to determine how much information is required by the person contacting you. You can see my Contact Me page as an example.
- GetMeCooking Recipe Template is a new plugin that I am trying out now that I am sharing some of my attempts at cooking on the blog. I thought it was handy as it allows the reader to print the recipe part only without all the extra chit chat that might be part of the actual post. It also gives them a choice when it comes to printing the photos. You can see an example on my Slow Cooker Honey Apple Pork Roast.
- Google Analytics for WordPress along with Google Analytics Dashboard are what I use to see what Google has tracked on my site as far as visitors go. It shows me the search terms used, number of page views, bounce rate (still don’t understand that), top referring sites and so much more. The so much more part are the things that I am still in the middle of teaching myself. I am not at a point yet where I am using all the information I am given to its best advantage.
- Google XML Sitemaps is one I consider absolutely necessary. Google depends upon your site map a lot and using their method is a sure-fire way of knowing that your site is properly indexed by the search giant. You can insert the map on any page and I think it looks pretty. You can find mine at Site Map.
- Growmap Anti Spam Plugin is called G.A.S.P. for short. Like some of the other plugins I have installed, I found out about it through a forum thread on the SITS Girls. This is your backup to Akismet plugin to prevent spam getting through in your comment sections. A human commenter will see and mark a simple check box while it forces the spammy bots to move on to the next site.
- GTrans offers translation of the entire page through a drop down menu that is inserted into a sidebar widget. It works great, but I am discovering through tests that it may be slowing my site down in regards to load time. While the bulk of my visitors do come from the U.S. and Canada, I also have readers from Russia, China, India, South America, Norway, Finland, Poland, Germany, France, South Africa, and other non-English speaking countries. Until I find something comparable, I will lose a few moments in loading to make things easier for my readers.
- Jetpack by WordPress is a plugin that I have a love/hate relationship with because of the negative impact it can have on my site, but the benefits outweigh the slower load time in my opinion. Jetpack gives you multiple plugins with one install that includes its own site statistics, spelling WITH grammar check, Gravatar Hovercards and several other features. Again, I probably do not utilize everything it offers to the max, but I did deactivate it once only to reinstall it as I missed it too much.
- jQuery Pin It Button for Images is one I highly recommend as Pinterest becomes more and more popular. Pinterest now refers more traffic to my site than Google or Facebook, so it is important to make that connection as smooth as possible. This plugin creates a Pin It button each time the mouse hovers over a photo allowing readers to easy add it to one of their boards. If you haven’t had a chance to get into Pinterest yet, please take a moment to look over the site which is part bookmarking/part inspiration/part networking and oh so addictive!
- Online Backup for WordPress was the 2nd plugin I ever installed. Every time there is an update to your theme or to WordPress itself, you need to create a backup of your site. While most hosting servers do weekly backups, your timing might be off and it would be best if you handled it yourself.
- Related Posts by Zemanta was another tip I got from The Sits Girls. Related Posts adds a small number of thumbnail links to previous posts at the bottom of each post to help generate traffic. So, if someone visits the page Risk Reaching Out (a post about preventing suicide), at the bottom they will find other posts I have written about mental health issues. I was using nRelate earlier in the year, but noticed that it really wasn’t grabbing appropriate posts. Zemanta does a much better job and also adds a mini-dashboard onto your main WP dashboard so you can see how many times people clicked through to another of your posts because of having the plugin. Mine tells me that in the last 30 days, I have had a click-thru rate of 3.1%. It may not sound like much, but I am happy that it helps people see more of my content.
- Reveal IDs is stated to show IDs that were removed since an earlier WP version.
- Shareaholic is hands down my favorite way of asking people to share my work. I have yet to get used to the trendy vertical ones and I like the look of the icons. Additionally, I like seeing how often a post has been shared to each social networking site. It has a nice array of options while staying user friendly.
- Slideshow is a plugin I found when I wanted to have the Rainbow Loom contest. I really wanted to share a larger than normal amount of photos without making the page too long. I tried several different options before settling on this one. You create each slideshow outside of the posts using the WP Menu Option Slideshow. After deciding several different factors such as speed and size, you generate a small code to insert into the actual post wherever you’d like it to be.
- W3 Total Cache is especially important when you have an image heavy website as it speeds up your loading time. This does have a learning curve to it and I am not yet using things like the CDN aspect.
- Wordfence Security protects your site with an anti-virus and a firewall. You can watch traffic live which is interesting and you can also see all the attempts made to get into your admin area. It has a IP blocking option that I have used now several times. I had no idea how often people/bots try to get into WordPress sites until I installed this. Make sure you add it right away to yours.
- WordPress Editorial Calendar was my third tip from The Sits Girls forum. Once installed, you will find the calendar in the Posts section of your WP Dashboard Menu. It shows what you posted on each day and can be used for planning future posts.
- WordPress Popular Posts takes the stats from the Jetpack statistics to create a sidebar widget of your highest viewed posts. You have a few options to choose from when it comes to timing and it has the ability to use post IDs to exclude ones you don’t want listed. I choose not to include giveaway posts as I would rather other content be highlighted once the contest is over.
- WordPress SEO creates a handy form in your draft window that assists you with your focus keyword/s and therefore your title with more advance features. The longer you use it, the more adept at SEO you become.
- WP-PageNavi becomes the link set you see at the bottom on each page of your site allowing readers to move backwards to previous posts.
- WP-PostViews shows the number of times each post has been viewed. When you go to the main post listing page, it will be part of that spreadsheet.
- WP-SlimStat was the first statistics plugin I ever used, even prior to Google Analytics. Interesting enough, it does not always match up with Google. I do realize that with Google and Jetpack and Wordfence Security, I probably do not need another plugin related to visitor information. It is what I am most familiar with though and I am such a curious information junkie that I’ll ask you not to judge me. *smiles*
- WPtouch may be last, but is definitely not least. When someone visits your site using their smart phone, having WPtouch installed allows your site to be automatically scaled down and become mobile friendly. It doesn’t use your pretty graphics or colors, but keeps your content and post images which is the main point of your site.
Yes, I really do have each and every one of these installed here on Little Bits and Pieces. There are three that I didn’t list because they are specific to using the StudioPress Genesis theme. As stated above, each plugin on this list is free. This is not a sponsored post and I don’t gain anything by recommending them to you. To get any of these for your WordPress site, simply click on the Plugins link in your WP Side Menu to choose Add New. Then copy the name that I underlined and put in bold to paste into the search box. When you see it come up, click on install and then activate it. Make sure you enter any required information in the plugin’s setting section and you will be good to go.
If you know of a plugin that would be more efficient than what I’m using or one you think should be mentioned, please leave a comment below.
I hope you have found this to be helpful!