Blogging: Essential Plugins

So you’ve gone self-hosted, set it up, now what?

Now you need plug-ins!

What Are Plug-Ins?

Plugins are little extras that you add to your WordPress site to give your blog some extra functionality or some extra features you might want or need. This includes everything from security to displaying your twitter feed in a sidebar. There are some plug-ins you definitely need to install right from the get-go.

All of the plug-ins are free and some come with pro options you have to pay for but I’m not using any pro versions of these plug-ins.

SEO Plugins

There are two I would choose from Yoast SEO or All-In-One SEO. I’ve used both and find both very good. Yoast SEO is the better of the two in terms of making sure your blog posts are the best they can be in terms of SEO. With keyword analysis and reading strength, you get a lot from the free version of Yoast, I only stopped using it because I was having trouble with the facebook images. I like All-In-One SEO a lot, it’s doing exactly what I want but doesn’t offer that readability analysis or keyword analysis.

Anti-Spam Plug-Ins

While the standard is Askimet, I don’t use it. I use WP-SpamShield. It’s been much more reliable than Askimet and much easier to set up. It’s stopped so much spam since I set it up and I can’t recommend it more.

Social Media Plugins

The social media sharing buttons and related posts on my blog.

Many themes come with their own social media icons, but there are extra options too. One plug-in I’ve used is Simple Social Icons which is very good and comes with its own widget to add to your sidebar or footer. The current one I use is Social Media Widget by Acurax which also has its own widget to add to your blog and comes with thirty different themes in the free version alone.

For sharing icons I use SumoMe. It adds the sharing bar you can see at the side of the blog and at the bottom of each post. It comes with a few good options for customisation but means you have to sign up for an account first and set it up. It’s a bigger file than most would be because SumoMe is more than just the social sharing. I like it because it has analytics and lets you know how many shares there have been. Another option I’ve used many times is AddThis, a very popular sharing plugin that’s simple to set up.

Related Post Plugins.

To decrease your bounce rate (how quickly visitors leave the site), and get people reading more of your blog posts there are two plugins I use. The first one is Related Post; this plugin adds links to other posts from your blog at the bottom of your blog posts. The posts can be related by category or tags, you can decide to add thumbnails, or remove categories from the related posts. I have three at the bottom of every post but you can have more.

Another plugin I use displays my most read posts in the sidebar. Top Ten comes with its own widget to display them and comes with a lot of options so you can set it how you want it; whether it’s the daily views or the overall views and more.

Plugins To Speed Up Your Site.

There are several ways to speed up your blog that we’ll concentrate on later but there are a few plugins that will certainly help. To improve the speed your images load and in turn how quickly your blog will load the plugin I use is WP Smush. It decreased the size of your images without losing any of the quality.

As with browsers, sites of have chases of their own and I use WP Fastest Cache that deletes all unnecessary information and also minifies the CSS (reduces it so it loads faster).

Extras

The plugin page on the dashboard.

There are other plugins I use on the site but don’t have a specific category but I feel are absolutely necessary to every blog. First up is a good contact form – I use Free & Simple Contact Form Plugin – Pirateforms. It’s very simple to use and set up and can be put on a page, a post, the sidebar, wherever you want by using a simple shortcode.

I use Cookie Law Info to display the notification that this site uses and asks people to consent to this. This is an EU regulation and all sites that use cookies must display this. And your blog will use cookies, as people who comment with be using some sort of login to post.

For those comments I use CommentLuv. This displays a link to the commenters last post if they leave a URL. This encourages other bloggers to comment on the site and increases your interaction on the site. For analytics, there is nothing better than Google Analyticator; which can be set up with SumoMe to see your page visits right on your blog dashboard. Lastly Broken Link Checker gets find any broken links on your blog so you can remove them and improve your blog.

Installing Plugins

These are the essentials and of course there are more I use and more to find.

Plugins are easy to install. No longer do you need to download them, then upload them via FTP onto your blog. You can simply search for them now straight from the plugin page on your dashboard. I find it’s not always easy to find exactly what you’re looking for as so many plugins have the same or similar names; it’s best to know who made the plugin so you get the right one. It’s easy enough, just checking the plugins page will tell you who made it.

Once it’s installed you just need to activate it and play with the settings. Some will have their own settings page that is linked in the dashboard sidebar, some will have setting pages linked from the settings menu in the same sidebar. Some you need to go to your installed plugins page to set them up from there.

It’s easy and once you’ve done it, you’ll do it over and over without even thinking about it.

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